A Guest Post
By: Amanda Stephens
Author of “Learning To Ride Again”
I am sick of sticky statements.
A year ago, I had the privilege of attending a writer’s conference, and in one of the sessions, the speaker, an author of many published books, schooled the audience of novices on the importance of sticky statements. A sticky statement could be defined as a short sentence or phrase that poignantly and succinctly captures the essence of the lesson. They are travel-size morsels of truth meant to prompt action. Often the “aha!” moment of the chapter, you may have seen them bolded in a margin caption box so as to catch the reader’s eye when skimming the pages in a book store. You know the type. They end up pinned, posted and retweeted. #stickystatements.
In truth, they are both necessary and effective. I wrote down many stick statements over the course of that weekend; and true to their intent, I’ve shared them multiple times with friends and family. If I’m honest, I would hope that one day readers of my book find a sticky statement or two that stays with them long after they’ve turned the last page.
But today, I am sick of sticky statements.
Ever have weeks where you’re uncomfortable in your own skin? Places we can leave, people we can escape, but unfortunately, we’re stuck in the skin we were born with and the crazy mind and emotional heart it contains. The other night, the simmer turned into a rolling boil of feelings I couldn’t process and situations I couldn’t change. I helplessly bowed my head and began praying for the circumstances beyond my control, only to stop midsentence as a cry of frustration drowned out my autopilot prayers. (Like an audible, wake the neighbors cry.) I was done. Done with praying for the very things I’d carried to God time and time again in different ways, with different words – with tears and without. Done! That night, the sun set on my anger.
The next morning, I sought solace from one of many reliable online sources of inspiration. I skimmed devotionals, blogs, and posts filled with endless sticky statements that failed to stick. Scroll, scroll, scroll. I didn’t doubt the validity of the words, but I resented the neatly packaged hope they offered. On this day the words were empty. I’d heard those words before, prayed those prayers before and seemingly to no avail. When I arrived at work, I flipped my calendar of inspirational quotes like a slot machine holding out for the winning letters that spelled out freedom, direction or peace to my soul. I found the words be to be trite instead. I was growing desperate.
On this day, I didn’t know how to pray so I just took out my Bible and read and read. I read of a shepherd boy who slayed the giant one day and was hunted by a jealous king the next. I read his honest words of fear, and a part of me is grateful that he too was at a loss, for his desperation sounds familiar. I read of a woman weeping uncontrollably with longing for a child after years of barrenness, and I understand her angst for the out of reach. It speaks in ways words cannot.
Sticky statements aren’t my enemy, but when identified as the cure instead of the Ibuprofen for my pain, the emptiness I feel is warranted. Sticky statements are the trailer for the movie, the appetizer for the gourmet meal to follow, and the Amazon.com teaser that ends abruptly at the point when you can’t help but click “Add to Cart” or risk losing your sanity at not knowing the rest of the story. But my life is impatient, rushed and hesitant to trust more often than not, and I survive on sticky statements, till I can’t. At that point, even when presented with encouragement or direction adeptly written, sticky statements fall flat, but it’s not their fault. They were never meant to be substitutes for the ultimate truth.
I vividly remember the morning after I received news that my husband of only a year had died. I stumbled into the daylight from the shrouded darkness of my bedroom cloaked in sadness and uncertainty. My mom sat still on the couch, reading. She was always reading, books of every genre but mostly the Bible.
“His Word, Amanda; I love His Word,” she said. She said it with such reverence, that I listened and leaned in.
“Will you let me read this to you?” she asked.
I did that morning and the next and the next. And each morning, it seemed a new revelation awaited in the pages, new mercies to be sure. I let her spoon feed me truth. If I was ever to get through that week, I would need nourishment, but I lacked the heart and motivation to reach for my own Bible, so we heard from hers. Despite the fog, there was clarity in the scriptures I had not known before, and I hungered for more to answer my questions and give purpose to my pain.
When I open my Bible today, the pages are still. I need not scroll but rather soak. Soak in HIS words to ME. His words, that though written centuries before I was a thought, speak as if penned this morning for my good. His words that don’t need a fancy font or pretty background to stir my soul. They stand alone, and they stand in the midst of my shame, my hurt, my schedule, my insecurities, and a chaotic world that offers me the illusion of safety for a price. His words are free. His word is a refuge. It is where I must live, fall face down upon, stain with tears and coffee circles, highlight and write upon my heart.
So many voices clamor for my attention – many of them good and wise – yet still He waits patiently in the pages. He must be my first glance, first taste, first step. These are the sticky statements that never lose their tack.
Amanda Stephens’ debut memoir Learning to Ride Again releases today. You can find more information about the book and how to order your copy at learningtorideagain.com.