Let me put this out there. Over the next month, I’ll find myself with a long span that will fill inevitably itself with fireplaces, family, friends, and falafel (first food with ‘f’ that I could think of). It will be a joyous time of crisp nights with hot cider, memorable moments with my wife and extended family, and decorating our family cat, Murph. But there will be a margin. Oooh, that margin.
The project is sitting on the desktop of my Macbook. I started it four months ago, before another semester of grad school kicked in and the church calendar took off. It’s a book idea I’ve had for some time. I love it. I hate it. And now I have to face it. Yet if I’m honest, I have to tell you I’m afraid to do so.
I know that I’ll try my best to fill the margins with every movie the honorable Rev. Thomas McKenzie tells me to see. I have one Jennifer Trafton and two Pete Peterson works waiting to be read. And I will get to all of those. But I also know that family only stays so long, and that presents only take a few minutes to unwrap. But the church calendar slows considerably for us these days, while the school takes a longer break. Thus, the marginal space will continue to call and ask me what I’m doing with it.
I’ve been journeying into some Emerson lately and an essay, “Heroism,” emerged with a particular quote that Emerson remembered hearing in his youth: “Always do what you are afraid to do.” There are a few key things ahead for our church next year that I’m afraid to ask our community to move toward. There are issues in my marriage that need to be addressed that either my wife or I am generally afraid to bring up. And there’s this stupid book that makes me believe no one would ever want to read it and that it’s a dumb idea in the first place — any excuse to mask the fear.
It reminds me of something else I read in The War of Art (seriously, read that book!) where Steven Pressfield writes, “Fear tells us what we have to do.” I hope my holiday season is filled with cheer and peace and joy and love and every other descriptor that adorns a Christmas card. But I also hope it’s filled with fear — at least enough to point the way to where I’m supposed to go.
Matt Conner is a freelance writer and music journalist. As the founding pastor of The Mercy House, he led a church community for more than six years in intense community development across racial and socio-economic lines. As a writer, he’s interviewed thousands of musicians for multiple print and web-based publications.