Tuesday, December 10, 2013

obsession: when we were on fire, part 1

"I didn't know where; I just knew I would go."

The words punch me from a page, not quite mid-way through Addie Zierman's memoir, When We Were on Fire: A Memoir of Consuming Faith, Tangled Love, and Starting Over. At eighteen, I'd had the same knowing, the same sense that God was sending me somewhere. To do something Big for Him. In some ways, I feel like I have achieved this, but mostly I wonder if I failed. At thirty-something, have I missed my opportunity?

Addie hasn't yet revealed whether she goes anywhere. But by page 98, I already feel as though Addie's lived a shadow life of mine. So many shared experiences. Similar observations. Mirrored conclusions. Twin heartbreaks.

All because we both grew up as Christian teenagers in the late 90s and came of age post-9/11, the beat of our hearts, direction of our life, cultural tastes, and romantic decisions all determined by a vague, clumsy, but weighty conservative evangelical sub-culture of Christianity.

Addie quarters her story: Obsession, Disillusion, Rebellion, and Redemption. Waves of nostalgia break over me warm and gentle as I read the first section, Obsession, which details her early years of falling in love with Jesus, up through her junior year in high school. While she attended a public school and I bounced between public, private and home school settings, Addie's description of her enthusiastic, unswerving, unquestioning teenage pursuit of God could have been lifted straight out of my own diaries. The colorful, friendly fish swimming past in this ocean of the past include WWJD, Newsboys concerts, summer mission trips, I Kissed Dating Goodbye, See You at the Pole, and purity rings.

As the waves recede and I begin the second section, however, I'm left cold, unable to not filter my memories through the painful truths I've learned since high school. Truths that have altered my perspective on the Church. Truths that showed me how little I knew God, despite how much I knew about Him. Despite how much I knew the rules to follow. The things to say or not say. To do or not do.

Stylistically, her writing is breathless and easy. Lyrical. I didn't know I would enjoy reading second person before I began Fire. Both hope and trepidation fill me as I start reading the next section, Disillusion. I see a rocky road ahead with no promise of arriving safely at the yet unknown destination.

Regardless the outcome, I'm enjoying the journey.

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