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Jen Pollock Michel

( author + writer + speaker )

Who are you blaming? (Sin and its revisionist tendencies)

I don’t think it often makes sense, doing what God calls you to do. It’s only ever in the looking back that puzzle pieces of life experiences and choices begin to frame any kind of clear picture. The demand for sense-making is human: and God isn’t in the business of making sense. The looking back is such an important part of faith. I believe in keeping our stories. I believe in retracing steps and finding patterns submerged there in the waters of days lived. I believe we live tomorrow better when we’ve thought a little more deeply about yesterday.

But sin has its revisionist tendencies. Your story, my story, are threatened by our interpretive hands. What is it that we want to believe about the days that cannot be erased or edited? Where has God been in the middle of it all?

And who do we find ourselves blaming?

I don’t know that it initially made sense to take up a call to write. I suppose the sense it made was that writing was something I had long done. The slice of confusion was: write about what? write for whom? write on what canvas?

In a month’s time, I was writing here for me. For you. Telling you my story. But it’s days like today that I wish I was not, not when my head is dulled by the sound of our argument last night. It is hard to pray. Hard to write.

Good. This is good. Sit down and face the truth. That’s was writing is. You want the truth because the best kind of writing is the naked truth. And you will tell the truth as it leaks straight out of the ends of your fingers. It will, without fail, surprise you.

I did my fair share of blaming last night, made my revisionist accounting of history, all because he had burst out, “You spent $15 on the tollway today?” Yes, it was in the middle of rush-hour, and before we left town, I needed to take the gerbils to our friends’ house out in the suburbs. And sure, I saved myself over an hour taking the near-empty tollway.

His question explodes, and the vortex of blame swirls. A tornado is birthed: I am spitting something ridiculous about the unfairness of my life and the economics of it all, quoting whole sentences from the feminist novel which must have been chafing under my skin, telling him that for eleven years now I’ve been home with children, making nickels and quarters for the little bit of writing I’ve done, and I can’t spend FIFTEEN DOLLARS if I want to? And what is it that he’s wanted and hasn’t gotten, all those years I did the heavy-lifting at home when he was taking actuarial exams and getting through graduate school?

He asks what it is that I’ve sacrificed.


(Do not trust your generalizations.)

I write this morning to settle myself, to pick up the pieces after the storm and prepare for the apology I know I must make. Because I don’t think I meant much of what I said last night. It wasn’t about the fifteen dollars.

Something else is bothering me. I know it because I ate six chicken fingers last night at the restaurant, literally gorged myself until I felt I would almost vomit. And before bed, I reached into the fridge, sliding a seventh from the box of leftovers we brought home. I ate it, too.

I am soothing something.

Fear. I am afraid. I am afraid of the future, afraid of having to move. Again. For all the changes we’ve made and loved, I think I have also wanted all my life to belong, to be permanent, to send thick roots down into soil. I have wanted to stay, and I’m afraid we won’t. Stay. Anywhere.

It’s easiest to blame him.

(And thankfully he’s on my subscriber list because could this count for an apology?)

It can’t, and I know that. I promise you there will be a phone call this morning. There’s a love story in the making, and apologies are critical scenes. Sixteen years of marriage: we’ve been building something that matters, and whenever there is a storm, it's true that, whatever broken branches and littered leaves our words have scattered, something always stands the next day.