Do you speak the language of loss?
That’s what Wm. Paul Young, bestselling author of The Shack, asks in his new, live show, “Where’s God When.”
Christian Piatt — author, speaker, and blogger — is one of the show’s guests. He, along with fellow guest and author Reba Riley, talked to Young about why it’s so difficult to be honest about loss, even though it’s something we all experience throughout our lives:
“Loss is a very common language that does not get talked about a lot,” said Young. “In fact, for some of us who grew up in religiously fundamentalist families, to be authentic was to be wrong, in some sense. So a lot of us didn’t learn how to communicate our losses or let people into that space.”
“A loss is something that we all share. It’s a language we all resonate with,” said Young. “I think everyone has an amazing story, once you get past the presentation. We’re so used to that way of relating to each other that it takes a little while sometimes to get past that to the holy ground of somebody’s story.”
“We live in a culture of performance. This is about my persona, my presentation. You don’t really want to know my person.”
Young says we’ve gotten to the point where this culture of performance — putting on a false “Everything’s fine” mask — is easier, because being authentic and revealing brokenness is “too scary and real. We’d rather have the imagination of relationship, rather than take the risks of actually having one.”
Young has talked publicly in other interviews about painful losses in his own life. He felt disconnected from his emotionally distant and angry father. He was sexually abused from the age of 4 — first, by local people where his parents were serving as missionaries in New Guinea, and then by other students at a Christian boarding school. “Sexual abuse was the loss of that child it took me 50 years to find,” he said.
He’s also been open in revealing how the horrors of his childhood reverberated into later years, including adultery and significant financial losses after he was married. “In 2004, we lost everything. I had been in telecommunications, and the business went sideways. We lost the house we lived in for 17 years. We lost our cars. We had four kids at home and two in college.”
“The facade’s gotta come down. This thin layer of perfectionistic performance that covers up the notion of shame has got to be dealt with, because I’m sick of running. Secrets have been killing me my whole life.”
Young’s new show is designed to be an experience that allows people to make peace with their past. Piatt says it’s not just for Christians, “but for anyone who has experienced loss and who longs to emerge from it with hope and a sense of place.”
“We need to create safe places and safe conversations that say, Your tears actually matter. And they don’t just matter to you. They matter to us all.”
“In a culture as sick as its secrets, loss brings us together again.”
Listen to the entire conversation with Wm. Paul Young, Christian Piatt, and Reba Riley here:
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Photo: Where’s God When, via Christian Piatt