Think of all the times in your life when you felt as if all that separated you from the truly Divine was just an opaque membrane of gauze. Most of us think those were the times when life was as good as it gets. At those moments we were just this side of Heaven. Life is beautiful.
How often do we think the same when life is crazy-tough, when every ounce of our energy is engaged to simply just stay afloat? How thin is the membrane then, when life is hard?
My dear friend Mary DeMuth, an amazing writer of both fiction and non-fiction, has composed her memoir, entitled Thin Places. It releases this month. Her publisher sent me a free copy to read and review with no strings attached, but I would’ve bought this book anyway. It’s an honest embrace of what we do when both the good and the bad drive us to glance up to Heaven to see Who is watching from the other side of the gauze. And since it’s memoir, it’s different from a low-impact how-to book with sidebars to keep it casual and practical. It’s a life story with heartache all over it, and yet hope appears everywhere that heartache shows up.
The Edge has the pleasure of Mary’s company today to talk about Thin Places. So let’s get right to it:
Edge:What is a thin place to you? How would you define it?
Mary: ‘Thin places’ is a Celtic term for a place on earth where the veil between heaven and earth is thin. In other words, you experience God’s presence in that place. I use that as a metaphor in my own life, and I’ve come to find that the places in my life God comes near are often the painful places. A current thin place is in my career, where I’m sensing God’s presence as I surrender my will, my desires, my plans, my way I thought things should unfold in His hands. I’m experiencing His favor and presence in that waiting place.
Mary: I felt sufficiently healed from my past, which had been a long, long journey. And in that healing, I knew I had the perspective I needed to be able to communicate my story with hope. In the past, I’d vomit my story of sexual abuse and neglect on any poor soul who’d listen, not with the intention to help her grow through her story, but to gain empathy.
But now I marvel at the path God’s brought me on, how gently He’s led me to this place of wholeness. From that abundance, I share my story. Why? Because I believe sharing the truth about our stories helps others see their own stories.
While I recorded the audio book for Thin Places, the producer asked me why I’d splay my life out this way.
“Because I don’t want folks to feel alone,” I told him.
“You’ve given a gift,” he said.
I sure hope so.
Edge: In this memoir you give readers a candid glimpse into your upbringing. Was it hard to share particular parts of your story?
Mary: In some ways, it was easy. I’ve shared my story over a decade now. What was hard was giving myself permission to say it all, to not hold back, to explore the emotions I experienced during the rapes, the drug parties, the feelings of loneliness.
Oddly, though, it was harder for me to share what I’m dealing with now as a result of my upbringing than the actual initial trauma. It’s hard to admit that I’m still so needy, so insecure. After reading the book aloud, I saw I still had areas of growth, particularly in being so hard on myself.
Edge: What do you hope readers gain from reading your memoir?
Mary: I hope they see hope. I hope they realize how profound and surprising and radical God’s redemption is. I hope they’ll see the irresistibility of Jesus.
Edge: You chose to write your memoir while many in your family are still living. Was that difficult?
Mary: Extremely. In many ways, agonizing. You can be assured that I prayed through every word. I’m thankful for my critique group who walked me through the writing and my stellar editor who helped shape the manuscript into a redemptive story. My goal was not to impugn or point the finger at what went wrong way back when, but to shout about God’s ability to transform a needy, incomplete girl.
It’s never easy to tell the truth, and I know my words may hurt some. But, thankfully, I’ve sought God’s heart in this and I can rest peacefully in knowing that.
Anne Lamott says, “Risk being unliked. Tell the truth as you understand it. If you’re a writer, you have a moral obligation to do this. And it is a revolutionary act—truth is always subversive.”
Thin Places is my answer to her quote.
Edge: Why examine the past? Especially if you feel healed from it?
Mary: Yes, of course we must move forward. We must move beyond our pasts. But in order to do that, we must mourn the reality of what happened, not bury it under a rug. I love what Sam says in The Two Towers movie about the importance of telling our stories, no matter how dark: “It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad has happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you.”
It’s my sincere hope that my story will stay with readers, not because of its sordidness, but because the Light of Jesus has shined so brightly upon it.
Edge: What encouragement or cautions do you have for those wanting to write their story?
Mary: First, prayerfully consider if this is something you need to do for therapy rather than publication. It’s very exposing to write a memoir. And sometimes we mistake the compelling feeling we have with publication. God sometimes calls us to write unpublished words, to get everything out on the page for the sake of our own personal healing.
Many of you have read memoirs that are self-indulgent or a poor-me fest. You need to evaluate whether you’re at a good place of healing before you embark on writing your story for everyone to read.
Edge: What fears have you battled as this book released?
Mary: Because this is such a personal book, I’ve worried about negative reviews. In some ways that’s good because it will force me to find my security and love from the One who made me, rather than the opinions of others. I’ve received some great endorsements, but also some harsh reviews. And those are the ones that knife me! Because the book’s about me!
I worry that I’ll be misunderstood. Or that telling the truth will hurt others. I’ve made a point to disguise nearly everyone and everything in the book, but of course the potential for hurt feelings is high.
I fear opposition by the father of lies. Since this is a truth-filled book, displaying authentic struggle, I have a feeling he won’t like it. I’m thankful for a specific, targeted prayer team around me to pray for protection regarding the release of this book. It’s humbling, actually, to see how God brought those pray-ers together.
The Edge: Thanks for being here, Mary.
For an up-close-and-personal look at Mary’s heart, take a look at this beautifully-composed book trailer:
And hey, before I go here’s a very kool kontest to win a Kindle! Here are all the details:
In Mary DeMuth’s memoir, Thin Places, she walks us through her journey from hurt to healing as she developed a deep, joyful relationship with Jesus. Thin places are those times where the division between this world and the eternal fades; they are snatches of holy ground, tucked into the corners of our world, where we might just catch a glimpse of eternity. Now, we invite you to tell your story of a thin place in your own life . . . and we’re giving you the opportunity to win a Kindle reader for doing so!
Here’s how to participate: (this is open to US participants only – sorry!)
1) In exactly 259 words – the retail value of a Kindle reader – tell us about a time you experienced a “thin place” in your life. These would be aha moments, beautiful realizations when the Son of God bursts through the hazy fog of our monotony and shines on us afresh, times when God has reminded or reassured you that he is real and present.
2) Post your essay on your blog or website. Once you’ve posted to your blog, add a link to your post in the Mr. Linky widget found at http://www.blogtourspot.com/2010/02/thin-places-blog-tour/. If you post to a Facebook account or do not have a place to post, then submit your essay in the body of an email to email@example.com. Your entry must be received (either by Mr. Linky or email) by midnight, Friday, February 12th to be eligible for the contest.
I am going to give this a go! Come back to Edgewise on Friday and I’ll have something here for you!
On Monday next, more neato stuff about Lady in Waiting. Have a great week!