“For my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.” Jeremiah 2:13
These words have been swirling in my heart for weeks now. I’m watching the minutes change on the top right of my computer screen, but the sentences are forming at a crawling pace. It’s hard for me to say these things, to admit out loud my struggle, to tell you the truth. But for the sake of my own accountability, I’m going to say it all.
Writing can be a little bit hard, did you know that? Not the act itself. In fact, for me, the word crafting is usually the fun, easy part where I get to think out loud and pray over my communication and see sentences in front of me that I sometimes didn’t even mean to say, but they sound ok so I keep them around. The hard part comes from wanting so badly to manage the reception of my words from, well, everyone who reads them. (I.e. Every writer wants you to like them. Period).
There is a little bit of non-prescribed magic in writing. You have to find your way very apart from the way of others. You have to speak your voice very apart from the voice you think will make you popular. You have to pray an unbelievable amount. You have to give in a bit to the unpredictability of it all, blow words like a wishing flower from your hands and hope they land on hearts they way you intend them to rather than being blown away by the wind. Writing is obedience, discipline, laughing at yourself, insecurity, vulnerability, confidence and lightness all at once. It is communicating something you believe in or simply want to share with others, and then it’s actually living what you just wrote and that, my friends, is one reason why I write: you all know a lot of my junk and I can sleep better at night knowing that I’ve been honest.
I really do not like the word blog when used as a verb. I would much rather think of myself as a writer than a blogger. So I will say it this way: I’ve been writing essays for the internet for just over five years. That means for five years I have wanted my work to be received, enjoyed, shared, commented on, affirmed. For five years I have wrestled with the beast of approval addiction, sometimes pinning that bad boy with a “my heart is content no matter what people think” attitude, but more often being heavily beaten to the ground with a “what do people really think of me?” insecurity. If you only knew what a hot mess I am. Like anyone who does work that the public views in one way or another—a photographer, an actor, a musician, a you-name-it—the way people feel about your work really matters. Even when you don’t want it to, it does.
And that’s what I’m writing about today. My work as a writer. Because I might burst if I don't, and because I need the reminder. Last month something a little bit crazy happened: a lot of people read my essays. And some of those people seemed to enjoy them. And it felt really, really good. Better than I am proud to admit. When I started writing with my best friend Kristin five years ago, the people who read our work were mostly our families and few dozen closest friends. And that was always enough, too. I actually don’t have any idea how it happened that a few thousand people found their way to Just Enough Brave in the last few months, because I don’t even know a few thousand people. It can really only be that some of you are sharing my words (and that’s the absolute best complement you can give a writer, so from the bottom of my heart, thank you.)
Can I also share with you something? Last week I wrote out my love story with Alex during a week that we fought almost daily about one issue in particular. I cannot tell you how much your words of encouragement filled my soul after I published that essay. I was so thankful people connected to the story I told. I always hope you do. But in the three days that followed, I had two emotional meltdowns (I mean the sobbing, angry, threw a sippy cup on the floor kind) and actually used these words with my husband: “I need to go away from everyone.” And Alex and I are still working our way through misunderstandings on the same issue. Why on earth am I telling the world this? Well, because I still want you to know my junk. I am an approval addict. And your approval of me is one of my broken cisterns. You loved my love story. I feel like I owe it to you all say both "thank you" and "we are messier than that sweet picture would ever let on." Like any addiction, approval is something that once you get what you are looking for, the high lasts only a few minutes. A very few minutes. And approval might well be the most fleeting thing in the world.
You know what kind of writer I don’t want to be: the one concerned with numbers. At the very same time, numbers are affirmations! Confidence! Cup-fillers! Oh my! A few dozen of my closest friends and family reading my words, awesome. A few thousand of you? Well please excuse me while I go hide because that is paralyzing. Thrilling— doesn’t any artist of any kind want that? And paralyzing—because not really, I’m insecure in my own expectations, I really don’t need any more. And this happens all at the same moment. Someone please explain that tension to me because I cannot understand nor manage it.
I so deeply hope what I am saying here is understood. I fear being misunderstood more than I can say. But here I am, just blowing these words from my hands: I am not a “big writer” by any means. Those two words in quotes there are a bit laughable. I’m on the left side of the bell curve here, I’m very aware of this. But I did not start writing because I aspired to any sort of notoriety, and I do not keep writing because I aspire to it today. I just write because, well, it’s what I do. I was an English major, writing essays is, like, what we are supposed to do to stay in the club (kidding). Honestly, I just want my words to matter for God’s kingdom, and I want my babies to have them when they are old enough to care. But with even a little bit more than normal attention on these words and I’m tempted to write for the audience rather than writing for the One I’ve always wanted to honor the most, and that’s Jesus.
Writing this is my reminder that the God who never changes is the only performance review that lasts beyond the short moments of this life. And my writer’s manifesto is actually the same as my life manifesto: To know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified…to be regarded as a servant of Christ and steward of the mysteries of God… and to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which we have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Amen.