The Mysterious You


Posted on November 1st, by nicholas in creativity, fiction, ministry, rumination, theology, vocation, writing. 6 comments

The Mysterious You

{in this piece, Jennifer Grosser reflects on her journey to write toward God.}

I don’t know about you, but the inside of my head tends to sound like my Twitter feed lots of the time. There’s all kinds of narration going on, but sometimes it feels like it’s in multiple voices and most of the time it’s very disjointed. Happily, as a young person I had a mother who encouraged my writing and a father who encouraged asking questions, and one day I found that the journal I was keeping to record my teenage angst had merged with the charts I was making to record my questions about what I was reading in the Bible or the prayer lists I was trying to pray through. Suddenly the charts and lists stopped, and the mysterious “you” I had been addressing in my diary turned out to be God. I’ve been on a journey of writing toward God ever since.

Write to God Like You Know Him
As a young adult, I began a correspondence with one of my favourite children’s authors, the late Lloyd Alexander. At first the letters were awkward and stilted and fact-finding. After a while, though, I was sending him and his wife home-made cookies and telling him about my stories, and he was telling me about his religious heritage and his bad back.

My correspondence with God has developed similarly (minus complaints about His bad back). The more I open myself up toward God, the more glimpses I get of Him and the more like his loved daughter I feel. My correspondence with a human author moved from “Dear Mr. Alexander” to “Dear Lloyd.” Similarly, my correspondence with my Author has progressed from “Dear Lord” to “Abba.”

Write the Moment to Finish Living It
While greater openness leads to greater intimacy, greater intimacy also leads to greater openness. Before I began writing directly to God, I was already narrating my life on paper. Some people jump out of airplanes to feel alive. As for me, I don’t feel like an experience is fully lived until I’ve written about it. It’s like eating an unflipped pancake. It just isn’t done. Or done.

When I began writing toward God, therefore, I started to “live toward” Him better, too. It’s not that I was living a life of reckless abandon before—probably anything but. Still, it’s one thing to try to remember to live like Christ on my own steam. It’s another, day after day, to return to my notebook and tell God about my experiences.


It makes me more mindful of the fact that my life is not my own, and that I chose for it to be that way. It’s a way for me to continue to intentionally put my life back in the hands of the one who gave it to me in the first place.

The more my relationship with God deepens as I write to Him, the more I want to tell Him, the more honest I want to be, the more I want Him to change the parts of me that don’t reflect Him so well. Sometimes when I write, I am also able to see when He does that.

Write God’s Words Back
While I don’t believe that God dictated the Bible word for word to a bunch of automatons over millennia, I do believe the Bible is unique among books and is really God’s message to us. It makes sense, then, that if I’m going to write a bunch of words to Him, I should probably pay attention to the ones He already “wrote” to me.

I tell God what’s happening in my life, but I also write down what it looks like He’s doing in my life, in light of what I know from His book. Sometimes I even copy down whole passages of Scripture if they resonate with me or I’m perplexed about them. Sometimes just copying the passage down opens it up so I understand it better. Sometimes I put myself in the place of a Biblical character, rewrite the story from that person’s point of view, and find insight into the passage that way. I write what I’m thinking and hearing when I read that Book so that I can do the first two things better: get to know God and live my life in His direction.

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Jennifer Grosser is the author of Trees in the Pavement. A settled-down and newly-wed world-traveler, she mostly writes about words, misadventures, theological/philosophical musings and intercultural interactions. At any given time, her day jobs have typically involved churches, children or coffee. Sometimes all three. She tries to keep the coffee and the children from meeting, however.

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6 Responses to “The Mysterious You”

  1. Rod says:

    Jennifer

    Thank you for this. I especially appreciated your touching on the link between intimacy and openness and growing into a more candid relationship with God. That’s something that has been on my own mind a lot lately while meditating on the verse from psalm 62: Pour out your heart before Him.

    I wonder if you would say more about this idea that, for you, an experience isn’t complete until you’ve written about it. I ask because you seem comfortable with that fact, whereas I would struggle with it. I have a spiritual ambivalence about my writing life precisely because I worry that I rely on it as a form of self-validation. It’s akin to one-upping Descartes: Not only do I know I am because I think, I know I have value because I can arrange those thoughts on paper in a manner that is competent and aesthetically pleasing. I worry when writing removes me from the immediacy of life. Instead of living an experience I think of ways I can write about the experience I’m supposed to be having.

    I’m curious if you can relate or otherwise speak to that.

    • Jennwith2ns says:

      Oh wow.

      Yes, I can relate to that, although I don’t think it’s caused me much angst lately. I went through a phase in college (after reading some of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s “The Cost of Discipleship” where I felt like my writing was “too much me” and I threw away all my journals (inadvertently also chucking notes I took when Chaim Potok visited my college). But I found I couldn’t stop writing, and that I couldn’t “connect” to God very well, either, if I tried not to.

      Honestly, I don’t think I even KNEW I wrote to complete an experience until I wrote this post (the phrase “mysterious you” came to me that way, too–almost by accident), but it actually was a pretty freeing and “relieving” perspective to come to. There’s something CS Lewis said once about ceasing to enjoy something once you’ve noticed you’re enjoying it, and I suppose that’s a danger for writers (and maybe psychologists) who, by nature, are tuned to “notice” their experiences.

      On the other hand, I’m not sure it’s a CRIME really. I mean, if it causes us to have crappy relationships with other people, then I guess it’s a problem. If it makes our reflection of God dimmer, then that’s a problem, too. But God also writes stories. Maybe it’s just another way to experience life. Just because our society tells us we have to be active or that “those who can’t do, teach” and other insulting things to the life of the mind, doesn’t mean those accusations are necessarily true.

      Finally, I guess I think the “direction” does make a difference. Not that that’s always easy to untangle (motives never are), but if I’m narrating my life to myself in the light of reporting back to God about it, it has a rather different effect than if it’s just to myself, or even to, say, my blog readers.

      • Rod Dixon says:

        “I guess I think the “direction” does make a difference. Not that that’s always easy to untangle (motives never are), but if I’m narrating my life to myself in the light of reporting back to God about it, it has a rather different effect than if it’s just to myself, or even to, say, my blog readers.”

        That’s an intriguing observation. I think you’re right that there are different ways of interacting with our experience, and it makes sense that writers are going to be pre-disposed to narrating and editing their own consciousness in ways perhaps a non-writer would not, just as a painter undoubtedly perceives and relates to the world differently than I do. I think you’re on to something with this notion of “direction.” I’m sure it does make a difference if an individual is primarily self-narrating and mentally drafting their experience so they can 1) make sense of the events unfolding before them, and 2) offer that sense up to God as a way of saying, “This is my condition, Lord. Do with it and me what you will.”

        About 10 years ago I was riding a motorcycle through Oklahoma when a nasty storm blew in unexpectedly. School was just out for the summer, so I pulled underneath the covered porch of an elementary school in a little town called Jet to wait the worst of it out. I was deeply conflicted about religion at the time, so when I noticed some of the clouds were funneling I wondered whether it would be honest to pray for deliverance or not. Suddenly I was struck with an experience of God’s mournful heart, and a Word was given: “Why do they only come with their problems when they should be sharing their entire lives?”

        That shook me up and I’ve more or less done my best to forget it, because I have never found a completely satisfactory way of “sharing my whole life,” but you’ve given me some insight into the possibilities of journaling as one way of doing the heart pouring God calls for.

  2. Jennwith2ns says:

    That’s . . . really amazing. The story! If this blogpost was able to help even a little, I’m rejoicing . . .

    Thanks for “pouring out” here.

  3. Vincenza Harrity says:

    Thank you so much, this really touched me and urged me to pursue my heavenly Father in this way.

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