It feels like a lifetime ago.
I think back to that period in my life—the before, during, and after of Genna. In some ways, I can’t even recognize that young woman. In many ways, I am not her anymore, and haven’t been for almost 11 years.
I had more exuberance for life, more joy, more naïveté. Certainly I had far more energy. I had Plans, with a capital P that stood for PhD. And while I had no official plans on the ministry front, I also was beginning to feel the early stirrings of a call to ministry. But after we lost Genna, I wanted to give up on everything. Well, I take that back: I wanted to give up on the idea of ever having a family. I felt my body had betrayed me in the worst way possible. I couldn’t trust it anymore, and so I was ready to throw myself into the world of academia, ignoring and stifling the pain and heartache in the pursuit of knowledge and ever-heavier tomes, writing away my problems under the guise of literary criticism and peer-reviewed journal articles.
I’m so glad I didn’t do that.
Don’t get me wrong—I still have dreams of a PhD someday. I mean, I think. Maybe.
But here’s what I’ve gained, despite the loss:
In the years following Genna’s birth and death, I went on to have 2 beautiful children. I discovered and joined an amazingly supportive group of creative women who taught me, mentored me, grew alongside me in our various creative endeavors. Those women have changed my life forever. I wrote the drafts for 5 novels, one of which is in revisions for publication later this year. I compiled and published my first poetry collection. I applied for graduate school, got accepted, and have already completed my first semester.
I couldn’t have told you back then, in January of 2009, when we’d been without Genna for a little over 7 months—and I certainly couldn’t have told you in January of 1999, when I was a senior in high school working on my very first novel—that right now, ten or even twenty years later, I would be in a place where I know, beyond a shadow of doubt, God has been preparing me for those ten, twenty, even thirty years.
I’m crying as I write this because of my overwhelming awe at how God has been—from this perspective, at this point in my life—so obviously pulling strings, redirecting pathways, building new roads, to get me here, at this time.
And where is here?
All of these years, since at least high school, probably before then, I have been doing theopoetics and didn’t even know it. It’s like it was wired into me; it’s my way of being, of existing, and until 2016, I didn’t have a name for it. It was like an ever-elusive something that you know-but-don’t-know because you can feel it in every fiber of your being, but you have not yet discovered its True Name yet. Well, in December of 2016, I discovered the word “theopoetics” through a Google search as I was trying to describe to my mom exactly what it was that I felt I needed to be doing.
I don’t remember what I typed into the search bar, but among the first results was theopoetics.net. When I first saw the word “theopoetics,” I gasped audibly. I could already feel the rightness of it in the depths of my being. I clicked on the link to the site and quickly read about The Association for Theopoetics Research and Exploration, which has since merged into a new version of ARC: The Society for Arts, Religion, and Culture. Reading about what theopoetics is (see definitions here), I slid off the couch onto my knees and cried in the middle of my mom’s living room.
I think I may have screamed quietly when I saw that there was going to be a theopoetics conference, within driving distance from my home, in March of 2017, and that it was affordable for me to attend.
And then, in researching about the conference, I discovered Bethany Theological Seminary was one of the conference sponsors and that they had a graduate certificate program in theopoetics.
That day in my mom’s living room completely changed my life. It was a huge turning point for me.
And yet, God had been preparing it—or, me—all along.
As I have looked back over my life, I have seen how God has led me in theopoetics from a young age. From writing songs starting at age 11; to writing poetry in high school; to my first attempted novel my senior year; to a several-pages-long poem from the perspective of the young woman in Judges 19 which I wrote for my biblical studies class in college; to an ancient fantasy I’ve been working on for fifteen years that has deep themes of justice and redemption; to Baptism: On Sinking and Rising, the poetry book I pulblished in 2017; to Nocturne, my current work-in-progress, a young adult dystopian fiction with themes of human rights, corrupt politics, and social justice.
I don’t know why I didn’t find all this information back in 2008, when I first really started looking into graduate programs. Or before that. Or at any point between then and 2016. But what I do know is that the moment I discovered theopoetics, I knew that it was the right time.
I don’t know if I would be here, at BTS, studying theopoetics, if Genna had lived. I don’t know what my life would look like right now if she had somehow been able to stay here on Earth with us. But in spite of all the loss and grief and depression and health issues I’ve experienced over the years, I am so grateful for my journey. This beautiful, awful jourey that has led me to this place. Here. Where I am now. Which is the last step before the next step, whatever that may be. I look forward to discovering exactly what it is.