I'd gotten the notebook from a young writers’ workshop in fifth grade.
If I think back hard enough, I remember the look in the teacher’s eye as she told me that there was a secret compartment where I could--wink wink-- write down my secret crushes.
Eleven years old, my standards for beauty were a little screwy: I wrote the girls I thought were cute, girls I thought were hot, and girls I liked. Only one girl fit all three categories, and her name was Megan.
We were kindergarten helpers. It was everything that was wrong about elementary school romance. I liked her but didn’t have the guts to ask her out. On the eve of the first day of summer her friend knocked on my door and asked me out for her.
We probably talked twice over the next three months. Beautiful & tragic.
I got fed up one day—the second of sixth grade— and summed up enough to courage to walk ¼ mile to her house on my block. Cue the inspirational music, the swinging rail arms, & the alfalfa sprout on my head.
It was all courage until I saw Megan & her guy friend Joey playing ping pong in her garage.
Courage dips out. I trip a couple steps up her driveway and stammer out a question if she’d gotten any As yet.
UH, no, she says.
UH, ok, I say.
And then I walked back. Easily the least courageous ¼ mile I’ve walked to date.
It's geeky, but I tell that story because, in some ways, it's mine.
I realize now that although then I was writing names in notebooks, what I really needed was for somebody to write my name in their notebook.
You know what I mean? I wanted somebody to take note of me. I wanted them to pay attention to me. I wanted them to see me, and see me so deeply & truly that it was like they actually enjoyed me. We all do.
And that was exactly the opposite of what seemed evident to me growing up.
I was born in ’94 in a military hospital. My parents got married out of high school when my mom got pregnant. After my older brother Nick & I, a cockroach infested military apartment, and a battery of abuse she decided to stand up for herself and divorce him.
I hoped my biological dad would write me in his notebook when I reconciled with him in my senior year of high school. Felt like a dagger actually shot through my chest when I accidentally saw a couple weeks later that he’d put me in his phone as Nick’s brother. So much for that.
That felt like my story through middle school. Imagine me--decked out in long blonde hair & Abercrombie polos-- trekking through middle school halls, on tireless mission to get written in their notebook. It was exhausting.
Things kept falling apart inside until things fell apart outside in my life. A perfect storm of conflict, illness, job loss, & trouble with the law. I remember the night my mom finally slammed her fist down and said, “That’s it! We’re gonna start going to church!”
It was a last-ditch effort for us, and nothing profound happened during the services. I remember in Technicolor, though, what the next year and a half felt like. I think I was trying to write God’s name in my notebook. You know, figure God out, and with God, the rest of the beautiful mess God made.
By the end of my sophomore year of high school, I ditched every weekend plan and sat in the basement of our foreclosed home and tried to get it all down. I drank a lot of water, listened to a lot of sermons, read a lot of apologetics, and soaked in some C.S. Lewis. Oh, and I peed a lot.
I remember him writing about two kinds of faith: one was belief against life’s circumstances, and the second was trusting when we finally figure out we can’t do it on our own.
I didn’t have the language down, but I felt like a real hypocrite by that time, too, so I wrote down that I couldn’t do it on my own and I needed God.
It’s taken a while, but I'm realizing that while I was trying to write God in my notebook, that the whole time God had written me in his notebook. That God had taken note of me. That God had paid attention to my broken family more than I cared to realize. That God had even seen me, seen me deeply & truly enough that it was like he was enjoying me the whole time.
And God's been writing me in there all the time. Like Lewis might say, it was just that my frenzied glances blinded me to the name I hoped to see.
I remember walking by the lake at Bethel University feeling really serious. I remember asking God to just show me that God was still with me. I regretted it as soon as it came out. I mean, how the heck would God answer that?
I kept walking & wishing I would’ve just reminded myself of a Bible passage when a guy named Aaron from CWC came up.
Not much, just livin’. You?
Headed to a comic book store.
Shweet. You have any batman comics?
Now, I’ve been in love with batman long after it was age-appropriate and long before batman became popular again. Momma tells me that I’d wear my batman jammies every day with the attachable Velcro cape on for days. It was a childhood obsession.
Yeah, I do.
Can I have some?
I walk maybe ten, twenty steps before I realize what just happened. Like, what was that like in heaven, you know?
I mean, God at work rescuing the world stops everything to hear from God's son. Son looks for proof that God is still with him & hears him.
Holy Creator of the universe lets out a big BWAHAHAHAH. I know what I’ll do, God says. I’ve seen my boy wearing batman pajamas since long after it was funny. I’ll put a random acquaintance in front of him that loves comic books, and I’ll give him batman comics, then he’ll know I’m God. HAH!
That could be God's goodness. It could also be my hyperactive imagination. But it's at the heart of my story, and I've seen tons of stuff like it.
And each time it feels like God is writing you & me—and more importantly, all of us everywhere—in his notebook. That with every approach of God's pen is a movement to untangle my darkest fears & show me they're just lies.
And, after all, maybe God isn't just a Father to us, but is really, truly out to restore the kid in us, too. One approach of the pen at a time.