I wanted to find a way to say goodbye to 2014; a year that for me felt like one long sucker punch after another. I started off by writing an “encomium list”, much like the one I wrote last year. But that approach, that worked so well for saying goodbye to 2013 didn’t seem quite right this time around.
More than any year that I can remember, throughout 2014 I felt like a dry sponge. Someone hollowed out by my work, hobbies, and relationships; utterly penetrated by compassion fatigue. I can’t count the number times I bellowed or barked or breathlessly whispered the phrase “No one ever tells you it sucks this much to care!”
The darkness of this year seemed thicker, the light harder to find; the trauma deeper. Walking with people through their personal ugliness is the highest privilege I have ever known, but it is hard, damn hard and don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise.
Countless times these past 12 months I tried to write or create or contribute in some way, but found myself completely wanting. I had nothing to contribute creatively, because I had nothing inside me. Each and every drop of me had been wrung out leaving my soul feeling like a cheap, confusing desert.
So rather than producing, I consumed. Books, music, art, films. My mouth tightly closed, my eyes gaping wide. I didn’t even analyze, or discuss in the way that I usually do, I just absorbed, drawing in deeply.
So instead of trying to use my own words to depart from this arduous years, below you will find one quote from each of the books I read over the past 12 months; quotes that seeped in, especially deep.
- Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger
“Worse than that, though, I can’t see-I swear to God I can’t- how you can pray to a Jesus you don’t even understand. And what’s really inexcusable, considering that you’ve been funnel-fed on just about the same amount of religious philosophy that I have-what’s really inexcusable is that you don’t try to understand him.”
- In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
“They shared a doom against which virtue was no defense.”
- A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans
“And so, at least symbolically, the blood of Eve courses through each one of her daughters’ veins. We are each associated with life; each subject to the impossible expectations and cruel projections of men; each fallen, blamed, and misunderstood; and each stubbornly vital to the process of bringing something new–perhaps something better–into this world…
We are each an Eve.
“…That Christ ushered in this new era of life and liberation in the presence of women, and that he sent them out as the first witnesses of the complete gospel story, is perhaps the boldest, most overt affirmation of their equality in this kingdom that Jesus ever delivered.”
- Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote
“But you can’t give your heart to a wild thing: the more you do, the stronger they get. Until they’re strong enough to run into the woods. Or fly into a tree. Then a taller tree. Then the sky. That’s how you’ll end up, Mr. Bell. If you let yourself love a wild thing. You’ll end up looking at the sky.”
- Other Voices, Other Rooms by Truman Capote
“The brain may take advice, but not the heart, and love, having no geography, knows no boundaries: weight and sink it deep, no matter, it will rise and find the surface: and why not? Any love is natural and beautiful that lies within a person’s nature; only hypocrites would hold a man responsible for what he loves, emotional illiterates and those of righteous envy, who, in their agitated concern, mistake so frequently the arrow pointing to heaven for the one that leads to hell. ”
- Unlost by Michael Hildago
“God’s love cannot be controlled or manipulated, and will always render us powerless. You cannot do anything to sway his never-ending love… God’s love is unfair. Try as we might to land outside of his love, it simply can’t be done.
“Too often, those who follow Jesus are only interested in withdrawing from this world and our culture. Maybe this attitude is precisely the reason our world is so broken. Perhaps our world is so dark because so few choose to go to the dark places with the light of Jesus and his hope that brings healing. Rather than take the risk of going there, we build walls instead of pathways. We hole up in a world of our own creation.”
- The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
“She seemed to know, to accept, to welcome her position, the citadel of the family, the strong place that could not be taken. And since old Tom and the children could not know hurt or fear unless she acknowledged hurt or fear, she had practiced denying them in herself. And since, when a joyful thing happened, they looked to see whether joy was on her, it was her habit to build laughter out of inadequate materials….She seemed to know that if she swayed the family shook, and if she ever deeply wavered or despaired the family would fall.”
- The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
“Until the day when God shall deign to reveal the future to man, all human wisdom is summed up in these two words,-Wait and hope.”
- Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
“It was titillating to brush up against the enigma of mortality, to steal a glimpse across its forbidden frontier. Climbing was a magnificent activity, I firmly believed, not in spite of the inherent perils, but precisely because of them.
- Catch 22 by Joseph Heller
“Almost on cue, a nursing mother padded past holding an infant in black rags, and Yossarian wanted to smash her too, because she reminded him of the barefoot boy in the thin shirt and thin, tattered trousers and of all the shivering, stupefying misery in a world that never yet had provided enough heat and food and justice for all but an ingenious and unscrupulous handful.”
- I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai
“Men think earning money and ordering around others is where power lies. They don’t think power is in the hands of the woman who takes care of everyone all day long, and gives birth to their children… If one man can destroy everything, why can’t one girl change it?”
- Surprised by Hope by N.T. Wright
“We have become a very moralistic, very judgmental generation. We have judged apartheid and found it wanting. We judge child abusers and find them guilty. We judge genocide and find it outrageous. We have rediscovered what the Psalmists knew: that for God to judge the world meant that he would, in the end, put it all to rights, straighten it out, producing not just a sigh of relief all around but shouting for joy from the trees and the fields, the seas and the floods.”
- Half the Church by Carolyn Custis James
“Equality is a foundational truth that extends to every human being and is rooted firmly in our image-bearer identity. The Bible doesn’t nuance or debate equality, but sets it in stone. Equality distinguishes the kingdom of God from kingdoms of this world that rank, rate, discriminate, and privilege some human beings over others. No second class rating, no marginalization, oppression, or mistreatment can alter this rock solid truth, for it is grounded in our unchanging God.”
- Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
“All right then,” said the savage defiantly, “I’m claiming the right to be unhappy. Not to mention the right to grow old and ugly and impotent; the right to have syphilis and cancer; the right to have too little to eat, the right to be lousy; the right to live in constant apprehension of what may happen tomorrow; the right to catch typhoid; the right to be tortured by unspeakable pains of every kind.
“I don’t want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin.”
- Troubled Minds-Mental Illness and the Church’s Mission by Amy Simpson
“The ironic thing about this desire to attract only the attractive is that it’s impossible to keep the wrong king of people out of your church. If the wrong kind of people are the wounded, unlovely, annoying, underperforming and neurotic, with closets full of skeletons, they’re already among you in great numbers. And 25 percent of them are struggling with some form of mental illness. Most of them are too afraid of the stigma to let anyone know-or perhaps to acknowledge it to themselves.
One pastor told me, “Every church is full of broken, wounded and messed-up people; some are just failing to acknowledge it. It’s inauthentic. It causes a schism between reality and Christianity. Scripture tells us to carry each other’s burdens. It doesn’t say ‘except when you have mental illness or when the person’s a little weird.’ It just says to carry each other’s burdens. We all need help; we all need our burdens carried from time to time. And if the church isn’t doing that, who else is going to?”
- Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
“When he thought of his history, what resonated with him now was not all that he had suffered but the divine love that he believed had intervened to save him.”
- The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemmingway
“I did not care what it was all about. All I wanted to know was how to live in it. Maybe if you found out how to live in it you learned from that what is was all about.”
- Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
“In every bit of honest writing in the world, there is a base theme. Try to understand men, if you understand each other you will be kind to each other. KNOWING A MAN WELL NEVER LEADS TO HATE and nearly always leads to love. There are shorter means, many of them. There is writing promoting social change, writing punishing injustice, writing in celebration of heroism, but always that base theme. TRY TO UNDERSTAND EACH OTHER!”
- War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
“Sympathy, love for our brothers, for those who love us, love for those who hate us, love for our enemies; yes, the love that God preached upon earth, that is why I am sorry to part with life, that is what was left me if I had lived.”
- Too Heavy a Yoke-Black Women and the Burden of Strength by Chanequa Walker-Barnes
“Until there is a new understanding and regard for the full personhood of all women with their gifts and talents in the church, we will not bear the yoke of Jesus. Instead, we will continue to bear the yoke of preserving patriarchal privilege. Must women bear the yoke alone, and all the men go free?
…That is, African-American women’s self-sacrificial behavior is not the result of individual neurosis but is rather conditioned by structural inequalities of gender.”
- The Help by Kathryn Stockett
“Ever morning, until you dead in the ground, you gone have to make this decision. You gone have to ask yourself, “Am I gone believe what them fools say about me today?”
- The Locust Effect by Gary A. Haugen
“One would hope that if the world woke up to such a reality, it would swiftly acknowledge and respond to the disaster—but tragically, the world has neither woken up to the reality nor responded in a way that offers meaningful hope for the poor. It has mostly said and done nothing. And as we shall see, the failure to respond to such a basic need—to prioritize criminal justice systems that can protect poor people from common violence—has had a devastating impact on two great struggles that made heroic progress in the last century but have stalled out for the poorest in the twenty-first century: namely, the struggle to end severe poverty and the fight to secure the most basic human rights.”
- The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
“It was comforting to know I had fallen and could fall no farther…I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart. I am, I am, I am.”
- Night by Elie Wiesel
“Never shall I forget that nocturnal silence which deprived me, for all eternity, of the desire to live. Never shall I forget those moments which murdered my God and my soul turned my dreams to dust. Never shall I forget these things, even if I am condemned to live as long as God Himself. Never.