Saturday, June 22, 2013
Excerpt: Finished Manuscript
Fr. Joseph Huneycutt and I finished the final (probably semi-final) draft of our book project. It is at our "test readers" now. We'll do a final/final edit based on their proofreading and suggestions, then it goes to the publisher.
I was originally just going to illustrate Fr. Joseph's text. We spent a weekend together several months ago discussing the project and pretty much checking each other out (we had never met in person). We both decided the other was "the real deal". As we talked, the vision for the book took some dark turns. The more we talked, the darker the theme of the material became. We've both lived long enough and done enough sinning and pastoral care to know being a Christian is damn hard and it isn't nearly as pretty as our Sunday faces show. We wanted to address the valley of the shadow of death and not put a smiley face on it (though there is some humor in the book).
We wanted it to be from an "Orthodox perspective" but something that any Christian could pick up and not feel like they were being slapped around with Orthodox apologetics. He ran it by John Maddex and told him up front, this isn't Conciliar Press's brand of stuff. John said, "Bring it." (We haven't submitted the manuscript, so there is no contract, just an approved proposal.)
By the end of the weekend, we both were confident we and the other could check our egos at the keyboard, so we decided to jointly author also. We've written, edited, suggested, added to and subtracted from each others' work. I have to say, (and those of you who know me know I don't say this about clergy often or lightly), "Behold a priest in whom there is no guile." It has been effortless to work with Fr. Joseph.
This is an excerpt (with illustration) from one of the first chapters represents the general theme and tone of the book:
At some point, whether in the act or after the fact, we come to the realization of how far we’ve fallen, how weak we are, how much light we have closed our eyes against, how chaotic our universe has become, the depth and stench of the filth we are immersed in. No rationalizations suffice. No resolutions made in the middle of the night are convincing. No guilt is motivating enough. No consequences are fearful enough. The grip of our addiction to our own vomit becomes an inescapable reality. It is when sin is an inescapable reality that God becomes equally inescapable. It is then that sweet mercy beyond ourselves is our only hope, our only desire, our last resort. ...
When we have wrestled and lost, eaten the apple and vomited it up and eaten it again, fallen and see no human hand to help us get up again, St. Paul succinctly sums up our experience, “Wretched man that I am! Who will free me from this body of death?” (Rom. 7:24)
This is the turning point, the “metanoia”. When we see ourselves so clearly that we can only see God is the moment we do the desperate thing. We will crawl on our hands and knees through the crowd to touch a hem of a dirty robe with an unclean hand, start out in hope on the long walk toward home smelling like a pig, annoy a crowd by shouting “Have mercy on me!”, and shamelessly throw ourselves in front of God and wash His feet with our tears no matter who is watching and judging. No humiliation, no distance, no commandment is too great to hope to be freed from ourselves.
Man calls this “desperation”.
God calls it “faith”.