I often joke that my job description is – essentially – to sit around and contemplate.
But it’s true; if you stick your head into my work-zone at any given moment you’ll likely see me staring into the mid-distance, leafing through a thesaurus, or paused with my hands a few inches over the keyboard as if waiting for something to happen. Or, I’m back in the corner, ensconced in my leather chair, cogitating.
Consequently, I tend to think a lot. Over-think, some might say. I’m constantly inside my own head; digging, probing, collecting. I now keep a rich assortment of thoughts, feelings, ideas, opinions and emotions just the shortest of distances below the surface.
TROUBLE: I don’t mind ready access to ideas, but it’s the emotions that I’m having trouble corralling. Gone is the long history of MPD (Male Pattern Denial), the careful compartmentalization that allows men to shut off troublesome thoughts, and the capping off of access points to depths I’d rather not mine. It’s all right there, up front and personal. Handy for writing, yes, but hard on my public self.
SMALL GROUP: So I tried to explain a little of this at our small group meeting Sunday evening. Karin had seen me choking up, blowing my nose and wiping my eyes during the last hymn in church. She wanted to know if I was OK.
I was actually extremely OK. I had felt a flood of God’s Spirit wash over me and the volume was just too much to contain, so I spilled some of it. Here’s how it went down:
- During church Rebekah’s sermon addressed the idea of “Living a good story” (check the podcasts at the First Presbyterian of Brandon website, it’s worth listening in on). Well, I’m all about story, that’s the crux of my writing, so the message tapped into a lot of that readily accessible material.
- Then, during communion, Mark and I played “Tell me the story of Jesus” and then “Let all things now living a song of thanksgiving to God the creator triumphantly raise…” The notes, the harmonies, the meaning and the emotion of the music travelled through the guitar strings and into my soul.
- Later, the closing hymn came along, “I love to tell the story of unseen things above, of Jesus and his love…. I love to tell the story, because I know it’s true; it satisfies my longing as nothing else can do…”
CRY: I told my group that I couldn’t just sing the hymn without crying. I felt my emotions infiltrated by all the stories that surround me, by their stories, by our grandson David’s brand-new story, by the fresh stories that are emerging from this dynamic ministry, by the stories that have recently come to a close, and by some of the stories I know that are winding down. The hymn just bought it all together, front and center.
Well, I tried to tell them all that, but I felt the emotion spill over again and I choked up one more time.
Like I said earlier, I keep so much of that dangerously close to the surface now. Particularly people’s stories.
MY JOB: It’s a tricky job, this storytelling one. It brings so much into the light. So much love, and pain, and emotion, and concern, and joy, and promise. I really understand why so many people simply close the door on all the knowing. But I also know that they miss out on so much that is valuable and true and real.
Rebekah said this Sunday at the benediction: “Go out there and live a good story.”
“Ditto what she said” – DEREK
Derek has published seven books in the past decade (you can find them at https://www.amazon.com/Derek-Maul/e/B001JS9WC4), and there’s always something new in the works.
Before becoming a full-time writer, Derek taught public school in Florida for eighteen years, including cutting-edge work with autistic children. He holds bachelor’s degrees in psychology and education from Stetson University and the University of West Florida.
Derek is active in teaching at his church: adult Sunday school, and a men’s Bible study/spiritual formation group. He enjoys the outdoors, traveling, photography, reading, cooking, playing guitar, and golf.