I’ve long been an avid reader of A Deeper Story, the Christian storytelling site that Nish Weiseth founded. The stories there are like tiny pieces of stained glass: so many voices speaking of the glory and pain and blessings of God. It’s lovely to see light shine through all the cracks. Nish wrote about her own messy-beautful story in her book, coming out in August. I wanted to ask her about how we can all take baby steps into living the life we’ve been given, and being brave in the midst of the mundane.
When you were writing about your book, you said you want us to pay attention to the great story we’re already living. Has there been a time when you haven’t felt like you were living a great story? What changed?
There are days where I still question it. It’s a choice we make every day, especially as a mom to two small kids. Everything is mundane. Everything you finish, you have to do over. It’s like Groundhog Day.
But just because it’s not glamorous doesn’t mean it’s not good.
A good story in the eyes of God is when we’re being faithful—in big moments and small moments. Both those things have equal value.
Was there a specific moment where you first started realizing that you were already living your story?
Before kids, I had worked in full-time ministry in Portland. But my paycheck couldn’t cover the cost of childcare, so I quit.
I got hit with post-partum depression badly in those first few months. I went into a pit of despair. I was at home all day with this little thing that didn’t talk or move.
About a year into depression I told my therapist, “What I’m doing here doesn’t matter. Everything is so boring. I felt like I was making difference before. “
And she said, “It’s not always the big things that are important. Sometimes the faithful small things end up being the big things.”
It was a paradigm shift. For the first time, I really understood my own value. And that I was tremendously valuable.
Why do you think we hesitate to believe our stories are interesting, great, relevant or faithful?
My answer might anger some people. (laughs).
Christian celebrity culture. We have pastors, speakers, authors who we put on pedestals that are doing these incredible things for God. They have speaking tours, books, they’re travelling the world. Heck, I’m writing a book, so I’m a part of it.
For example: I am amazed at Katie Davis, who went to Africa right after college and ended up adopting thirteen girls. Her story is incredible.
Then, we elevate those Hollywood-worthy stories as what we should be doing, when maybe we should just be doing the laundry.
The stories on Deeper Story can be very raw. When I hear Christians talk about living a great story, I don’t think they have rawness in mind. Why are we so uncomfortable with a messy, raw, unresolved Christian story?
When we read about someone that doesn’t have it all figured out, it creates a sense of unease. It resonates with us more than we want to admit. We like things wrapped up in a pretty red bow.
I think it also has to do with our individualistic culture. We don’t know our neighbors like our parents did. With the Internet and social media, we keep to our own.
Also, for Christians, I think most of us are affected by the Evangelical culture machine. It’s how I came to faith, and so many others in our generation.
And that machine has been very good at creating a pretty picture. They have the answers.
Then we look at the whole wide world, and we think, “This is not what we were told.”
Instead, Christianity is incredibly hard, messy, and difficult. Pretty or glitzy isn’t always the truth. We love the Bible, but it’s not an answer book. It’s not going to have everything written out plain.
Of course, people write about the beautiful, wonderful stuff of faith too—and we include that as well.
Why have you—and the other editors at Deeper Story—decided to include that kind of rawness?
For every twenty people that push back against a raw story, we’ll get one person saying, “I am so glad to know I’m not alone.”
When we’re vulnerable in our faith and find just one other person that says, Me, too! it’s worth it.
It goes back to that isolationist culture I mentioned earlier. When we’re the ones struggling, we wonder if we’re alone. Does anyone else feel cynical? Does any one else struggle? When we see the messy, it creates space to breathe. I mean that personally.
How does bravery play in living out your story as a believer?
Any time you’re open and honest about what’s going on, I think that’s brave. We fall into the trap of saying “Fine” when people ask how we’re doing. And we’re not fine.
It’s easy to gloss over those hard things in our lives. Especially once we’re through them—we want to move on, decide the hard part is done, and that it doesn’t matter.
But our struggle does matter to those who are going through it.
It’s also brave to talk about the good. There’s a lot of messy, and there’s a lot of beauty, and we need to proclaim it too.
Saying “God is good” is a brave thing. It can be countercultural to talk about what’s beautiful—because negativity brings page views.
If we’re not painting the full picture—messy and beautiful—we’re not portraying Him.
As I write more, I’m finding more and more resonance between writing and faith. How does having an artist’s approach to Christianity change how you follow Jesus?
You know, a lot of people tell me I’m an artist. But that label has been hard for me to accept. It’s always been hard work for me to write. I love it, but I’m very slow. I associate art with people who have a natural ability.
I guess that it’s gratifying to know that by creating, I’m taking a part in the beauty that is in the world. When good things break through in the world, that’s a piece of the Kingdom. Contributing just a microscopic bit to that means I can put my head on my pillow at night and know that I did something good.
In general, creating and faith are daily disciplines. It’s putting my butt on the chair, and my fingers on the keyboard. It’s reminding myself of the basics, and putting one foot in front of the other.
Nish is the author of “Speak: How Your Story Can Change the World,” from Zondervan. She blogs at NishWeiseth.com and is the founder & Editor-in-Chief of DeeperStory.com. She lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, with her husband, two kids, two dogs, brother-in-law and his dog. The house is practically a small petting zoo.