Fireside Confessions

In the past several weeks I have put words on paper that I could never speak.

In a season of grieving and heartache I was challenged to try something new. It was suggested that I take a blank notebook and just start writing all of the things in my mind and spewing all of the feelings in my heart. No editing. No censoring. No redirecting or correcting. Just writing.

And then, when the words ran out or the time was up, it was recommended to just tear it all up and throw it away. The idea was to get it out of my heart and my head and let it go.

A counselor once used the term “brain puke” to describe this kind of purge. But when I began to think about some of the frustration and bitterness in my heart and the pain of some very heavy losses, I realized that I needed more than just a trash can.

To be able to put all of those things into words and onto paper, I needed, for my own peace of mind, to do more than tear it up. I needed fire.

I bought a chiminea for my back porch about a year and a half ago. It had been used probably 4 or 5 times when this suggestion was offered to me. It has been well-used since.

I have always been fascinated by fire. To sit beside the fireplace with a crackling wood fire has long been a therapeutic practice for me. I find the sound and the smell and the warmth to be soothing.

Taking the suggested discipline of free journaling and throwing it away, I began to do what I call fire journaling.

For me, journaling is a prayer activity. My inner conversation is most always directly with God. Even if I don’t start that way, it goes there quickly. He and I are the only ones that know a lot of the stuff in my heart and my head.

But so much of the frustration and heartache of life I never manage to put into words. It’s not proper or polite to have some of the thoughts I have. It’s certainly not acceptable to put words on paper to such effect. And yet… He knows. He knows my heart and my mind far better than I.

What dawned on me as I wrestled with the discomfort of this exercise is that God already knows the bitterness that threatens to take root in my soul. He already knows the emotions that don’t really come out in nice words. In my unwillingness to say some things and in my compulsion to not offend, I was being less than honest and forthcoming with God… and with myself.

If it seems inappropriate, irreverent, or just ungodly to think or write awful things and toss them in the fire, I would urge you to consider how much of the same irreverent, faith-wavering struggles of David are contained in the very canon of Scripture. It was just these things (consider Psalm 13 as a perfect example) that helped me see that it is not my sugar-coated platitudes God wants from me. He wants the real stuff, not at all because He doesn’t know but because He wants me to be real enough with Him to let it all out. This is about intimacy with my Creator.

So I began to sit with a spiral notebook in front of the fire and write all of the things that came to my mind. I could never let anyone read them—EVER. But He already knew the things floating around in there. I had to come to grips with the fact that my failure to be honest about them and bring them to Him was more hurtful to Him than any irreverent words or unseemly confessions of things He already knew.

As I have continued in this discipline several days a week, I have found that there is a strange and holy sincerity in vomiting those awful things out of my mind and onto the paper—but particularly so when I pull the page out of the notebook and toss it into the fire.

There, in the chubby little chiminea on my porch, I have offered my hurts, my frustrations, my deepest confessions, my nagging self-lies, my deep-seated fears… like a pet lamb on the altar of sacrifice.

Here I have learned, probably more than ever before, to be genuine and honest with my Father and with myself.

I have learned to pray more deeply in the spirit of that desperate father who begged Jesus to deliver his son from the clutches of the spirits that tormented him continually.

“I believe; help my unbelief!”

Mark 9.24

 In my fireside confessions, I am learning to live more genuinely in the belief that still wrestles with unbelief, confident in His faithfulness, honest with my lack thereof.

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