It probably isn’t surprising to most people to hear that I am a fangirl. Star Wars? Han shot first. Star Trek? Don’t call me a Trekkie, it’s Trekker. Harry Potter? The Dursley’s were not under the effect of a horcrux. Supernatural? There’s a gif for that and Destiel should be canon. Game of Thrones? R + L = J. Doctor Who? Is an alien and gender is fluid.
In my life the fangirl identity is something I’ve fully embraced. I love it. Fan-fiction, fan-art, fan theories, and fan controversies, these are the things that make stories into communities. Stories shape us. They invite us in and dare us into new realities. Stories can show us truths we may have been to uncomfortable to entertain before. To me stories are life.
When I decided I wanted to explore a new way of practicing my own spiritual formation it was only natural to look to my fangirl ways. What would it look like if I used fandom frameworks to explore Christendom and my own personal faith? To be sure the very word fan comes from the idea of a religious fanatic. Is there a way in which the balanced fangirl life could benefit my own spiritual life? The answer for me has been yes.
Why did I decided to “explore new life and new civilizations” in my spiritual practice? To put it simply, I needed new life in those practices. My current existence felt limited in the spiritual parameters I had allowed to be set for myself.
Some of you may relate to this experience. Whether you are of an age where life seems to be winding down or like me your body has determined life must be winding down, it can be difficult to see what your calling is in that context. I’ve mentioned before the fear of my best days being behind me and that my tools are quickly being stolen from me. What good can I do without my best days and best tools? Life started to box me in. I was suffocating. Where is the hope that I may add to the work of the kingdom? What will be my limited legacy? Everything I knew about my ability to do good work had been taken from me.
What is there to do then? Well, as my father has often spoken on, it’s time to improvise with the Divine.
It is easy to get bogged down in the “I can’t’s” of the world. I can’t help fund a ministry financially because I don’t have any finances. I can’t be a minister because I don’t have the ability to support my own training. I can’t keep a steady job because my health is unpredictable and precarious. I can’t. I can’t. I can’t.
However, the “I can’s” of the world are what brings new life. I can write about my truths. I can love creation. I can challenge myself to adapt. I can enter into hard conversation. I can be creative. I can. I can. I can.
This is what I love about being a fangirl. I love the creativity and the willingness to enter into the stories. To move them forward, to relish in them to find common bonds in them.
My dear friend and fellow fangirl, Lisa, sent me the book Family Don’t End With Blood: Cast and Fans On How Supernatural Has Changed Lives edited by Lynn S. Zubernis. It’s a series of essays and I can’t express how much I’ve loved this book. There is a unique social dynamic in the Supernatural fandom. For those not in the know, Supernatural is a television show. For me the most impressive aspect of this fandom is that, by and large, it is marked by compassion, empathy, and familial relationships. The cast and creators have a very open and engaging relationship with their fans. It is summed up well in this quote by Karen Cooke:
“I no longer watch this show. I am involved with this show. Intrinsically involved. I’ve been involved now for over ten years. The other day my mother observed that it seemed like It wasn’t the story I was involved with anymore. I was more involved with the people who made the story. ‘Definitely,’ I told her.”
What would it look like to no longer watch the story but be involved with it? To not just love the story but to be involved with the story makers? To, dare I say, be a partner with the Story Maker?
This. This is what I was searching for. It’s been here all along. Icons are fan-art. Jonah and Revelation are fan-fiction that has been canonized. Theology is obviously fandom theories.
In James 4: 14b-15 we are confronted with these words “For you are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wishes, we will live and do this or that.'”
I’ve been consumed by my own vanishing mist. It seems so unsubstantial. What can something that vanishes really do? Is there an impact I can have? James says there is. James tell us to try and live into the Divine’s will and decide to live despite our own vanishing act. We must learn the art of creativity, of improvisation, of playfulness with the Divine. We, in short, must become fangirls and boys of the Holy.
Sure, ok. But April Beth? What lasting impact can that really have? Can that really change anything?
It already has.
An image that I have found both comforting and confusing is one given to us in that great canonized fan-fic, Revelation. Revelation 8:4-5 paints a picture of how prayers may and do impact the kingdom, impacting not only the citizens but the Divine itself.
“And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel. Then the angel took the censer and filled it with fire from the altar and threw it on the earth; and there were peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake.”
Interesting, when we pray, both in word and action it combines with the incense of the Divine. Throw out onto the world and watch as Thy Kingdom come. That’s what I call impact!
My tools are vanishing and yet God wills me to live and do. This challenges everything I once knew about my own capabilities but the Divine invites me to shape not only myself and creation but to join in the Divine’s own shaping too. My prayers, my life, my vanishing existence moves this story forward. I will not just debate the story. I will help create it. I am, after all, a fangirl.
Thanks Be To God.