A couple weeks ago I was nourished by a half-day workshop for preachers in Cherry Log, GA at the Craddock Center led by Rev. Barbara Brown Taylor. One of my favorite preachers speaking at the center named for one of my other favorites preachers! (I know, I'm a dork.)
BBT spoke to us about creative writing for ministry. Probably not the preaching technique session many arrived to hear that day. But it was BBT and whatever she leads you into will challenge and surprise and change you. For one of the exercises she had a folder on each of the round tables at which we were all seated. In these folders were dozens of random images cut from magazines, catalogs, etc. of people. She instructed us to simply look through the folder on our table and pick the one we want.
So, unexplainably I was drawn to the image below and quickly grabbed it.
After we all made our selections, she gave us the simple direction: "This person in this picture has something to say and no one to speak for them. Let them speak through you." We were told not to think about it. We were told to write freely and openly without judging our ideas, spelling, grammar, etc. We were told to simply follow the creative spirit/Spirit of writing and to not stop our pens until she called time.
Here is what the man in this image had to say to me.
"I have lots of things to say to you, Shawn, but I fear you are unable to hear me. This is not because I am an image on a page. No, the barrier to you hearing my voice is much more complicated and difficult than the fact that I am not an "I" but a gathering of various inks to appear as an image. The barrier to me speaking is not my lack of vocal chords but your lack of centered awareness, sabbath openness, comfortable attentiveness to me as a real person. To you I am an object, an icon, a tool for you to say what you want to say, to proclaim a message of your own creation. Like a woman on a centerfold, I am an object for you to use to your own ends. To you I am 'The Poor.' To you I am 'The Marginalized.' You try to speak for me, announce great proclamations about me, call for others to save me. But you do not sit down on this seat next to me. You are not working with me. You are not sweating with me. You are not cursing with me. You cant hear me because you are nowhere near me. I am an topic for your teaching, an object for your career building. I don't need you to save me. You need me to save you."
Father of the Manger,
Son of Vulnerability,
Spirit of Powerlessness,
Come and free me from my addiction to safety,
destroy my delusions of heroism,
heal my arrogant blindness.
Send the 'least of these' to minister to me,
to bandage my wounds,
to feed my starvation,
to save my soul,
to clothe my nakedness,
to forgive my sins,
to shelter me in my homelessness,
to provide for my desperate needs.
I need to be saved.