“Kill Your Darlings” by The Rev. Stephanie Kendell
I hope this week found you taking inventory of the banquets you have set and the tables you need to turn over. I was so inspired by Pastor Kaji’s message to faithfully look into my life and evaluate the things that are necessary for me to continue and others that are ready for me to let go of. I know this week will be equally as wonderful. If you didn’t have the chance to worship with us online or in person last week, I encourage you to go to our website where you can always find the previous weeks’ sermons.
When I was a child my mom taught me to play Blackjack. In all honestly it is probably how I learned to count passed 10. I played the house and dealt her cards and played on my own at a very young age. However, as I got older she would start to call me out on my tells, for I am one who wears their emotions on their face. So, I learned to hide what I was thinking, especially when I had a really exciting hand.
As I got older, my “tells” came out in other ways. Specifically, in my writing where certain words and phrases would clutter my pages, showing the reader my “hand” and sharing myself in all too familiar words each time I wrote. My tag lines were easily discernible as things I had written, and all of my papers had similar phrases and cadences. I had to learn to “kill my darlings.” “Kill your darlings” means to take out the things that you lean on too heavily. It was meant as a tool for writers, but I have found it to be applicable in all spaces of life. This Faulkner idea is something that I carry with me in my writing and also in my faith life. For me, in my writing I use the world “cultivate” a lot. In my ministry I say, “God is love,” often. And while cultivate as a word is great, and I do believe that God is love, when I overuse that phrase or word, or I let it linger on its own without exploring what I mean, I am doing a disservice to the complex and nuanced ways that God is at work in the world. God is so much more than love, so much more than kindness, hope, or joy. What God is, is a bounty of things and so I must remember to kill my darlings when speaking of the nature of God so that I don’t limit the way God may be experienced in the world.
This week’s text is from Ephesians and it talks a lot about what God is and who we are in relation to God. But as we read through it, I wonder what metaphors of God do we lean too heavily on? What are the darlings of our faith and the language we use to understand the nature of God and God’s grace?
You were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient. All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else. But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which God loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with Christ and seated us with God in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come God might show the immeasurable riches of divine grace in kindness towards us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life. (Ephesians 2:1-10 NRSV)
“Grace,” “saved,” “mercy,” and “love.” All of these words are often synonyms for the mystery of God made tangible in our limited language. However, if we killed those darlings, where would we be in describing God’s love? Now our darlings are precious for a reason; they are meaningful and useful to us. And that is something to be valued, but if we reach out and expand beyond our comfortable ways in how we describe and understand God, we start to get to know God in new ways.
Church, what needs to die in your life to make way for God to show you new things? Have you killed your darlings so that new ones may emerge? On this Lenten journey, as we are mourning, flipping tables, and killing our darlings all to see what the journey may unfold, let’s not underestimate how hard the work is. What is beyond the story we think we know, and what lies just at the edge of the page of the stories about God that we tell ourselves and others? We need to be there for each other. We need to support each other. We need to build community in life-giving and sustaining ways. Because the end of the journey is God. And that is one darling I am not willing to let go of.