As an act of marking this semester’s writing journey, I’m bringing it back to the beginning for a moment. If I’ve learned anything from seminary, even more profound than fancy theological jargon or thousands of years of church history or a toolkit for proper biblical exegesis, it might just be the importance of knowing oneself. You must know yourself — your gifts, your quirks, your growing edges — before you can sustainably care for and accompany others. You must know the people, communities, and perspectives that have shaped you in order to wrestle with theology with integrity. You have to do the hard work of discovering where you’ve been and who’s come before you in order to enter into conflict or hard conversations about systemic change. You must know yourself in order to know your neighbors.
In Writing to Change the World, Mary Pipher argues that the most meaningful writing comes from those who know themselves deeply. She suggests several exercises for getting to know oneself as a writer, but one of my favorites is the “Where I’m From” poem. Check out my poem below– and then I’d love to hear your own version! Where are you from? Who or what has shaped you? Click here for a template (but totally feel free to adapt. There are no rules here.)
Where I’m From
I am from Bensons and Steigers, Lebers and Kreins.
I am from South Dakota corn fields and prairie sunsets, from expansive skies and starry nights, and from Minnesota lakes and the Red River valley, from “uffda” and tater tot hotdish, and from the Rocky Mountains and Denver sunshine, from bluegrass music and hipster coffee shops.
I am from sturdy maple trees and stacks of hay bales, from a garden filled with tomato plants and rows of apple trees whose tart fruit might make you pucker – but they are perfect for pies.
I am from anxious and stubborn and stoic and practical. I am from creative and generous and kind and witty. I am from white privilege and gendered stereotypes and feelings-hiders and quiet strength. Together, we’re learning.
I am from early risers and diligent workers, from colorful talkers and strong coffee drinkers. I am from grand storytellers, green thumb gardeners, and masterful cooks. I am from “Find your smile!” and “Don’t hurry, start early!”
I am from John Deere and NPR. I am from hot fudge sundaes and corn on the cob, from German dumplings and prune kuchen.
I am from sticky orange and black pom-poms, bright yellow Nancy Drew mystery novels, and that old black couch that sucks you all the way down in the center. I am from skinned knees and long bike rides on gravel roads and Friday afternoon piano lessons.
I am from Lutheran liturgy and silly camp songs, from church picnics and Christmas pageants. I am from youth gathering altar calls and contemporary Christian radio and crinkly Bible pages with lots of neon highlighting.
I am from more questions than answers and communities of thoughtful accompaniers.
I am from adventures yet to unfold. I am from dust and breath and contradictory wonder.