DANCING WITH THE BAPTISTS…AGAIN
Re-blogging an earlier post as somehow in the transition to GoDaddy, my July posts got lost. So here I am again…Dancing with the Baptists!
This story starts last spring when I attended a Conference of the National Poetry Therapy Association. There was a little fund-raising auction, and since there were books there, of course I went to browse. The book that caught my eye was titled Dancing with a Baptist. Was God playing a little joke? For the truth is, I had done just about six weeks before what I never thought I’d do–go back to the Baptists. The sub-title to this particular book is “A Love Story in Poems.” It’s also a sub-title of my story–the love part. The strange pull happened step by step. One day I felt homesick for those days when I knew early faith. Next thing, I was visiting a ladies’ tea, and greeted at the door by my sweet granddaughter, “Grandma! I didn’t know you were coming!” Oh, the power of children to love us back to where we never left. I went back. I felt loved, is the only way I can explain it.
The next chapter in this love story (though it didn’t feel like love at first) was finding an old blog and realizing that I had left myself exposed. How many churches I have joined in Nashville! This morning, I think I heard some of the reason why I was called back. Strangely enough, I have been re-reading a brilliant little book by E. Stanley Jones, a Methodist missionary: Christian Maturity. I am back at exactly the same place I left four years ago: the difference between eros and agape love. Furthermore, Jones quotes the very psychiatrist that I had mentioned in a proposal to do expressive writing groups. In the 1920’s Smiley Blanton and an associate discovered the healing power of using poetry and they called it poetry therapy. Mr. Jones, a missionary in India, quoted the same Smiley Blanton: “Whether they think they do or not, all people want love. Their spoken words may tell of other things, but the psychiatrist must listen to their unconscious voice as well…modern psychiatry teaches us that we fall ill, emotionally and physically, if we do not use love in this way to guide and control our behavior…”
Regardless of the excuses I may have had for leaving a church, it came down to this one thing: I needed to love and be loved, and somehow this was missing. The reason I was able to go back to the Baptists (though they actually don’t call themselves this) was simply that I felt love. So expressive writing is writing down our thoughts until they go deeper and deeper where that great wellspring of emotion resides. As a facilitator, I am simply a guide, a companion on the journey. But it’s why I believe I am “called” to lead expressive writing groups. They’re not therapy, nor are they theology, but they’re not simply creative writing groups, either. They are somewhere in between where Love resides.