As a senior attending Brentwood High School, we had one English teacher that loved to compare her red editing pen to an ax. She enjoyed chopping away at our essays and homework to “cut out all the deadwood.”
While her red pen nearly induced panic attacks when she handed our assignments back to us, I appreciated her wise counsel and teaching style.
I only had her as a teacher for a little while before being transferred to another teacher (I forget why). I think her class sizes were far too large. Even though the new teacher was much easier, I missed Ms. Ax. She wasn’t the nicest teacher, but she was the most helpful in explaining the importance of well-crafted words and their impact on the reader. While Ms. Ax’s edits hurt, I knew she knew what she was talking about. Every sentence she annihilated ended up giving way to something much better than before; every deleted unnecessary word, sentence, or paragraphs made room for the necessary, relevant and compelling. Rather quickly, she started having me find the “deadwood” by pointing to a sentence and saying “That’s not going to work. Cut out the deadwood!”
The photo at the top of this post was taken when I went for a jog the other night. It was one of the many huge trees that fell during Hurricane Irma. Ms. Ax’s voice popped into my head about “Cut out the dead wood!” This thought brought up the good memories written so far in this post, but that challenge to “cut out the deadwood” can be a metaphor for cutting out shaming and condemning messages that have been grafted in or forced into our story.
For those of us leaving legalistic Christianity, there comes the point where we endured the storm to come out of the closet and find the house is a wreck! That while we have authentic freedom now, our old beliefs or someone else’s storms have left behind a lot of damage. We might have to muster up some courage to take a good look around and assess. Perhaps it is time to remove the deadwood that is filling up our lives with the curses, or even current damage, of stigmatized words. Unnecessary and intrusive words that seek to write our story for us instead of allowing our voice to bring about authentic life and health.
We may look around and realize these examples of “deadwood” are still seeking to damage us.
- For God to love you, you have to be celibate, go to ex-gay/conversion therapy. = Deadwood (a lie).
- For you to be healthy and whole, you have to reject who you are. = Deadwood (a lie).
- There is no such thing as a gay Christian. = Deadwood (a lie).
Examples of Vibrant & Lifegiving truth.
- You are an LGBT+ Child of God whom He loves yesterday, today and forever. It’s not based on what you do but who you are. = Vibrant & Life-giving
- To affirm who you are as an LGBT+ Child of God can be one of the healthiest actions you can take. = Vibrant & Life-giving
- There are Gay Christians because Jesus Christ does not discriminate. Other people do not get to decide who is and who isn’t a Christian. Stigmatized views of LGBT+ people have had their say, and now it is time for us to speak up. = Vibrant & Life-giving
For some of us, it’s time to cut out the dead wood and clear the way for new growth. It is time to uproot the shaming and condemning messages, we have been conditioned to believe about ourselves. It’s time to reclaim the space within our own state of being and take back our stories. In doing so, we will find our own voice and a loving God who will help us to find the words that truly fit in with the way He created us to bring beauty into the world.
What messaging is keeping you from living a full and authentic life? Are there views and beliefs that continue to create or reinforce damage? What needs to go in order for what is life-giving, good, and true to take root?
If you need help, there are many of us willing to do so. You are not alone.
Being free is good,