Barbara Brown Taylor spoke at First Baptist Decatur yesterday six years following the publication of her memoir, Leaving Church. She is one of my role models for her authenticity (an over-used word, I know, but for lack of a better term), groundedness and commitment to telling the truth as a preacher turned writer.
Taylor began her talk with a helpful distinction. Pastors spend much of their time being concerned with “rightness” and “wrongness.” Taylor had spent years in the pastorate doing just this, because “being right” had been part of her implicit job description. But when she sat down to write Leaving Church, Taylor set out to tell a story that most fundamentally was simply “true”- true to her own experience, which may or may not be true for her readers, but was indeed true for her.
I like the distinction. It helps to explain the gap between our smiling faces in church that show only “shards” (Taylor’s term) of ourselves on Sunday mornings and the rest of our lives- why it is that we so often retreat from church when life throws us a curve ball in the form of a divorce, or depression or some other kind of devastating new story line.
In times like these, we’re not looking for rightness or wrongness. We’re looking for Truth. We’re looking, whether or not we know it, for Jesus.
And, the good news here is that we don’t have to look far for the Truth. The Truth just “happens” to us. All we need to decide is whether to tell the truth.
Many of us don’t.