When We Were On Fire: Synchroblog Round-Up

Photo By: Stacey Lewis, Creation Swap

Photo By: Stacey Lewis, Creation Swap

We were on fire, or we weren’t, or we were faking it, trying to muster ourselves into something we thought we should be.

We were so much alike and so different, and the chorus of our voices here in these posts sound like nothing so much as a prayer. An offering. A lament and a praise all mixed into one song.

Thank you.

I can’t tell you how much it means to me that you took the time to share your stories. So much of what you wrote was raw, intimate, painful and beautiful.

Not one single post tried to diminish the complexity of those days. To say that they were all bad or all good. We were all touched in beautiful and terrible ways, and what I loved most about this synchroblog were the honest, thoughtful ways each of you tried to sort it all out.

As I read, I came across this song by Greg Laswell on Pandora and it stopped me still. It sounded like a love-song for us – the on fire and burned out. The searching. The still-barely-hanging-on. I want to share it with you, because it sounded like an anthem, a healing, a benediction.

There’s no cool music video to go with it…just the music and a still photo. But it’s worth listening to you as you scroll through the quotes in the round-up below.

When I finished reading the synchroblog posts, I had 16 pages of beautiful quotes from your stories. Obviously I can’t publish them all here…but please know that each of your posts mattered. I am grateful for each and every one of them and the conversations they usher in.

Here are a few quotes. But really? Read them all. Every single post. Especially if you’re a pastor or youth pastor or youth group volunteer of some kind. They offer so much insight into what went wrong and what went right, and I think more than anything, stories like this will pave the way for us to do better.

Thank you again. Really.

*

On the Nature of Fire:

“[My] flame was far from the gentle light that could be hidden under a bushel. I was more like a raging inferno of self righteousness out to prove I was working harder than anyone else to follow Jesus.”
~ Ed Cyzewski at In a Mirror Dimly

“We laid relationships we didn’t have yet and things we hadn’t gotten yet on the altar before we could even hold them in our hands, the fire lit and already licking at their edges. We mortgaged the future like it didn’t matter (and we would later wrench it out of God’s hands, burning ourselves a bit and swearing we never meant a word of it).”
~ Jennifer James at Jen is (Sometimes) Excited

“The problem with fire is that it gives the appearance of being a living thing–it breathes, it grows.  But it isn’t alive, and ultimately, it consumes everything before it burns itself out.  That’s not the kind of faith I want, and it’s not the kind of faith I want my children to have. Better is a seed.  There’s a reason Jesus doesn’t use fire as a metaphor for faith.  He uses seeds–more than once.” ~ Amy Mitchell at Unchained Faith

“The fire wasn’t a fiction, I know this, and even when it has gone out I never found it a childish or unrealistic thing to want. The world needs people on fire. The world needs those who don’t hold back from life, mentors and go-outers and every-day-doers, lovers of the unbearable beauty and sadness of all this sacred beat-up earth.” ~ Lyndsey Graves at [to be honest]

“Those “on fire” moments are all about connecting with God on a deeper, more personal level, while also building your own faith community, apart from your parents. Sure, those experiences aren’t sustainable (and are often cringe-worthy), but they can provide an important bridge from one solid faith ground to the next.”
~ Kristin Tennant, Halfway to Normal

“When were were on fire, we shaped our gold into a god in the refining flames – A shape to worship that made sense and we could hold, until, in a fit of tears, we would melt our golden god down; reshaping Him again and again.” Nicole Romero at 1000 Strands

“In one of life’s great ironies, I attempted to become wild with fire by shoving myself tighter and tighter into a place no contamination could reach–not realizing that even the smallest flames, once contained, burn out.”
~ Shar Carlson at Wild Introvert Rumpus

“We were the Daniel Generation, the David Generation, the Esther Generation. We existed only in three-part sermons, alliterative dot points, prayer walks and fire tunnels. We screwed our eyes shut and thrust our hands into the air, hoping that maybe this time we’d feel something.” ~ Bree at Falling Joyfully

On Doubts, Questions & Complexity:

Here is the truth: black and white exist– but so does gray.  I didn’t know that growing up amongst evangelicals. ~ Jackie Sommers at Lights All Around

“After the event, we gathered back in one of our hotel rooms to debrief, and the students were quiet. Finally, one of them spoke up. He was seventeen, and he had a daughter, who his mother was quietly raising. He was angry. He didn’t know how to process the feelings he was having, except to say that he felt humiliated and defeated.” ~ Steve Wiens at The Actual Pastor

“I didn’t know an outside the box faith was possible or that it would save my faith in the end.”
Leigh Kramer

On The Christian Subculture

We all had different experiences, but it was all strangely interchangeable: the concerts, retreats, books, music, youth pastors–we were all told of the love of God, in a way that the young and the privileged can understand.” ~ D.L. Mayfield

“I don’t care what anybody says, Audio Adrenaline is not and acceptable substitute for Everclear.” ~ Brandi

“Once upon a time, the same hyped-up, choreographed, style-conscious approach to God that I find so distasteful now is what kept my battered teenage heart from drowning.”
Bethany Bassett at Coffee Stained Clarity 

On Fear and Salvation

“Later, I will wish someone would have seen me with my fear and earnestness. I will wish they would have taken this girl’s arm-she still is a girl, growing into a woman’s body–and walked her away from the altar. But they don’t. They show movies on Friday nights about the apocalypse. They talk about how even a hint of impurity will ruin you and separate you from God. I will need to take my own arm and walk myself away from the altars, but I don’t know how. ~ A Holy Fool

“I spent the better part of my adolescence compulsively praying to give my life to the Lord, trying to ask in just the right tone, with just the right mixture of repentance and fear of hell-fire. Still I was broken, and I needed fixing.” ~ Kendall Ashley at Distracted Blogger

On Witnessing

We’d leave the door wide open so that others would hear how much we loved Jesus, and maybe, just maybe, realize Truth. Maybe we’d even let them in.” ~ Cara Meredith

“What my superhero glasses prevented me from seeing at the time was that the Lutherans already had Jesus. What’s more, they also had a practical theology far more well-developed than mine; One that compelled them to not only talk about Jesus, but to actively serve him in their daily lives.” Jen Bradbury

When you were on fire…I saw you at the anti-choice rally. I was the girl with my back to the abortion clinic, fighting for women’s rights. You were the girl fighting against me. You held a sign that said, “No more killing.” Both of us were crying.” ~ Esther Emery 

On The Pressure to Be “Good”

“This is the story of how I played the perfect little Christian girl, and how, ultimately, that didn’t work.”
~ Lizzie at The Bends in the Road

“This is the tragedy of growing up in a system that assures you things will work out a certain way if you hold up your end of the bargain. There is no way to be good enough, and when you give up trying, you lose the whole system. It doesn’t sound like a great loss, but when I lost the only way I knew to get to God, I lost God, too, for a while.” ~ Kari Baumann, Through a Glass, Darkly

“My role at this college would be to prove my worth as a Christian: how fluent was I in Scripture? How dedicated was I to the pursuit of behaving better? I would spend the next eighteen years on this quest—clawing air in wholehearted attempt to reconcile who the God of the Universe was in comparison with the image others had taught me to see.” ~ Renee Ronika Klung at Quiet Anthem

“I told kids to clean up before they went to altar- don’t go down there if you don’t really mean it. Oh, how I cringe now to read those words. As if God couldn’t be bigger than all that.” ~ Lindsay Tweedle

“What I desperately, urgently needed was for someone, anyone, to tell me that I was already the woman God wanted me to be.” ~ Shari Dacon

“We were taught to distrust ourselves, distrust our feelings, distrust our experiences. As a product of this era, I seem to have internalized the message that we must first deny our feelings and “get in line with Scripture,” which sounds like a lot like a power play and clashes in its tenor with Jesus’ invitation to come to Him with our heavy loads.” ~ Mallory Pickering 

On Relationships and Loneliness:

“When I was eighteen years old, I preemptively broke up with a girl I wasn’t even dating. I was surrendering everything to God. And because God was jealous for my affections, it meant that I couldn’t talk to her anymore because I liked her too much.” ~ Micah J. Murray at Redemption Pictures

“The problem is “Jesus” is a five letter word, “life” has four letters, and “sex” has three. What we were taught simply didn’t fit in the blank neatly in a lot of ways.” ~ Sonny Lemmons at Through the Windshield

“When I sat alone, I could imagine that God and I had our own little club, something I found much more difficult surrounded by rest of the youth group, and their little clubs.” ~ Cara Strickland at Little Did She Know…

“This is an A — B conversation, so you better C your way out of it,” Shekinah said to me over her shoulder before whipping her head back around. She was named for glory, but delivered the worst parts of middle school like badly-written irony. I wonder often if I had been baptized with fire, or if I was just looking for my own A — B conversation. Regardless, that is what I found.” ~ Antonia Terrazas at Deeper Church

“All I had was my rosary and my memorized prayers and a deep-seated feeling of inferiority. Of not good enough. Not for my boyfriend, and not for God.”
Ashley Brooks

“‘Look, I don’t date so unless we’re heading towards marriage, we should probably end things now,’ my boyfriend said late one Wednesday night. I actually swooned on the other end of the line. How Godly…”
Osheta Moore

“As the crowd thinned, we quickly realized that absolutely no one was looking for us.”
~ Susan Schiller at The Other Side of Reason

“I think about all that raw, consuming sadness coupled with just being a teenager, and maybe the reason we didn’t all go under is because we had each other.” ~ Emily Luna, Noting Now

“I have spent too many days waiting for one of those Jesus girls to invite the weird kid to be in their group. They never do. I suppose I could be mad at the Jesus girls who don’t invite the weird kid to the project group or the lunch table. But I was that Jesus girl. I never thought about the weird kid either. I was too busy being on fire for Jesus.” ~ Abby Norman at Accidental Devotional

“Eventually realized the emotional toll those comparatively small–even commonplace–adolescent dramas had taken on me, largely because they happened in church, and asked for the help I needed to untangle my faith from my bad church experience. – Anne Bogel at Modern Mrs. Darcy

“But the teens at church judged me for my parents’ rules. They labeled me perfect.  They laughed at me and my “goodness” so many times.” ~ Teryn O’Brien

“We didn’t understand then that “Christian” relationships don’t necessarily mean healthy or safe relationships.” ~ Bethany Suckrow

“As you climb in your bunk bed that night, the pictures of your boyfriend taped to the wall make you feel sad. You love him so much, but has he taken over the number one spot? You think he must have because if God was number one then surely Bible verses would have covered the wall around your bed instead.”
~ Natalie Trust

On How it Is for Us Now:

“When we least expect it, a tendril of flame licks at our hearts. But it’s never consuming. It won’t ever get that way again—there’s nothing left to burn.” ~ Elora Nicole

“The words, then used so often to argue and convince and persuade, have settled into something quieter and gentler now: a background hum, steady as the blood pumping through my veins. They are no longer rhetorical weapons, polished and honed to perfection. Instead, they are part of my makeup, like my mother’s green eyes and the freckles on my nose.” ~ Katie Noah Gibson at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

“I keep thinking about those milliseconds under the water. The metaphor of it. The way I think we’re still gradually rising to that surface, becoming kinder people, more gracious to ourselves, reflecting bits of Christ.” ~ Ben Moberg at Registered Runaway

“What does it mean really, that Jesus changes lives?  Is where we end up 15 years later proof that something worked or didn’t?” ~ Caris Adel

“I met people who were very different from me. The Ones I Had Been Warned About. I am an ally because I learned what forgiveness looks like at a gay bar.” ~ Suzanne Terry at CoffeeSnob318

“[Maybe] those who are on fire need to be tempered by those who are quiet, practical, analytical, and logical. Perhaps my world needs the Christian skeptic, academic, intellectual.” ~ Amy at Fraught with Possibilities

“Crisis faith doesn’t stick. It doesn’t stick because the crisis doesn’t stick. We move on, and seasons ebb and flow. By some great mystery, miracle, grace, I married a man and we did not replicate my childhood home. And instead of finding rest and peace, I found my faith cracking all around me as the ground I thought I was firmly standing on began to quake with the uncertainty of Stability.” ~ Sarah Torna Roberts

“I thought that there was a huge dichotomy between those two states of being: the teenage me leading up at the front, on fire for God; the teenage me sulking at the back, all burnt-out. But looking back I can see there was wasn’t that much difference: both ‘me’s were scared of doing wrong and being wrong, both wanted to belong and succeed. The only thing that changed was the way I masked those failed desires: through zeal when I was at the front, and through cynicism when I was at the back.” ~ Tanya Marlow at Thorns and Gold

“In that class, reading the Bible as literature, it was like the curtain was torn, and the walls of Jericho collapsed. The Red Sea parted and my faith dried up… ruptured myself. And I began studying, absorbing what my professor spoke into me, like the bread of my very life had been made soggy from dipping it in too much wine of the world.” Brett Wilson at A Man Worth Writing For

“Whether or not I was ever “on fire” seems to matter very little now that I am in the fire. There are very few easy answers, even fewer simple solutions. Faith and hope are crucial in this line of work (and just in the work of living in general), but it’s not the kind of faith or hope that you can buy or wear or share through a clever motto or catchy play on words. I wasn’t prepared for what it would mean – for the depth and breadth of the ache that is aching for the lost. Even more – I wasn’t prepared to so often be the lost.”
~ Becca at The Unsteady

“I floundered a bit after that. What did I believe anymore? I went back to college. I got a job. I got mugged. I got depressed. I learned to drink. I learned to drink less if I wanted to survive. I learned to be cynical. Then, I gradually learned how not to be, thanks to some good Episcopals and Methodists and Presbyterians and Catholics.” ~ Laura Lowe at Connections and Conundrums


Comments

When We Were On Fire: Synchroblog Round-Up — 26 Comments

  1. Thanks for the round up Addie. That line by Caris Adel is worth reading and rereading. Wow! “What does it mean really, that Jesus changes lives? Is where we end up 15 years later proof that something worked or didn’t?”

  2. That was a great round up! I agree that it was so great that no one tried to write our teenage selves off. And reading these helped me to remember some of the good things too.

    “Once upon a time, the same hyped-up, choreographed, style-conscious approach to God that I find so distasteful now is what kept my battered teenage heart from drowning.” ~ Bethany Bassett

    So very true.

  3. Thank you, Addie, for being so incredibly generous with YOUR book release week. You turned it into a gift for all of us, into an opportunity for us to tell our stories too. I feel like it’s redemptive in a way–people coming together now to reflect on what was and where we’ve landed. It seems to me like healing and forward motion could come from this.

    P.S. I finished the book a few days ago. It’s so, so good. I want to give it to all my church kid friends 🙂

    • I’m so glad that this has been redemptive and healing. That’s exactly what I was hoping for, and I’m so glad so many people joined in. It really means a lot to me. (And thanks so much for the kind words about the book. So glad you liked it.)

  4. Beautiful round-up. It’s been so cool to read others’ stories and know none of us are alone. Again, I’m so glad I got to help publish this book! Thanks for being so honest and vulnerable. The world needs more of this.

  5. So good! Looking forward to checking out all of these. 🙂 Thanks for including me in the list; it is an honor indeed.

  6. I am stunned by the beauty of all of this. And the hours and hours this must have taken in order to put all of this together. Thank you for being such a portrait of humility and collector of words!

    Looking forward to the next book!

  7. This is Church. So much love and humility and faith despite all that everyone has been through. And all of it bathed in Grace. You, Addie, and all of you who joined in, what beauty. I feel like I have just worshipped with you all.

  8. Addie,
    This continues to be a place of connection and community. It’s an honor to be here as people pour out stories that we share. It’s hallowed ground.
    Thank you for including a quote from mine. You know that it was tough to write, as were all of these.
    xoxo.

  9. Wow, the effort you put into this round-up is astonishing. Thanks for doing it– what a lovely way to see the hearts of so many of your readers!

  10. Pingback: To Current Pastors - From the Formerly "On Fire" | Addie Zierman | How To Talk Evangelical

  11. I’ve just discovered this blog today, and after a few hours of reading through various posts here and there I feel like I want to share my two cents.(It may be a bit long lol) I grew up partially evangelical. My family traveled around the world my entire childhood and many of the churches we attended were purely for the sake that they taught in English… My parents also wavered in their faith occasionally it seems as we had bouts of not going to church at all. As I got older the church going was more frequent and tended to be more evangelical either way. As a young teen I quite enjoyed it in the sense that church actively tried to grab youth attention… and I honestly can’t say if I would have been drawn in at all if we went to a ‘boring’ church… However; my main motivation for going was to see my friends and my boyfriend…. who appeared, but in private was not, so Christian. I had become to feel like I needed to show that I was Christian with all the gear and the active role in youth group activities. I participated in the dance squad that performed on Sunday mornings to meaningful and powerful Christian songs.

    As I got older and moved to different churches around the world as a teen, I discovered I did actually believe in God, but I had also discovered that I felt inadequate amongst my Godly peers. If I said or did something that others felt was not a perfect representation of a Christian girl I would get ‘counseled’ by friends and it came off as so condescending sometimes… like who were they to counsel me?

    I also discovered some fakeness by others from a church when I was 17 or so – other youth that were soooo nice and welcoming for awhile…and then after a month of not coming to church, I’d come back and they’d have forgotten me… even though I remembered every single one of their names. The same group of people shunned a friend of mine because of a “sin” of hers… I was also made to feel inadequate whenever I’d like a good Christian boy and I’d hear repeatedly that they (various boys over the years) didn’t date girls like me. I never got an explanation as to what that meant. I often felt ‘on fire’ for God, and wanted to be (and thought I should be trying to be) with good, Godly, men… But I was never perfect enough to fit into their visions of the perfect Godly woman I guess. Instead, in high school, I ended up dating an Atheist, a 25 year old, and a drug addict. None of them especially bad men, but none of them Godly either.

    I never really completely lost my faith because of these experiences… I did question my faith and I did make poor decisions (as we all do at some point) but these experiences just helped me to grow into a WELS Lutheran – where my pastor remembered my name after meeting me just once, and my husband’s name a year after meeting him 🙂 Pastors who answer questions thoroughly and honestly… after doing proper research (starting in my late teens) and really reading my bible and other studies for myself I have discovered how to spot BS and how to really think about what I believe in. I found a home.

    I have since started moving around the world again with my husband’s job, and we have started going to an Evangelical church because there is no other church that suits our needs here. I find it ironic that now, as an adult, I walk into that church (before I actually started going, but I had been attending a women’s bible study for several months) on a Sunday morning. My reputation precedes me and I am thoroughly welcomed by some women and told that they have heard all about me – all good things. That I am often talked about by other ladies as a wonderful woman of God. …How did this happen? I don’t jump and sing and raise my hands, I don’t do the speaking in tongues or the passionate prayers with arms outstretched that many of those ladies do… How did I go from a teen that felt so left out sometimes, so inadequate compared to my peers…into a 30 year old woman who is seen as such an upstanding person in the church (even when I don’t go every week 😉 ) ? I really don’t feel that I have changed all that much, to be honest with you.

    I don’t think that any of the churches I regularly attended as a youth were bad in and of themselves, and not everyone in them were not genuine. But overall I am glad for my upbringing in these churches… it has helped to shape me into what I am today and helped start me off in the right direction,the direction of discovery of God and His word for myself.

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