My sister posted on her blog this post about why she hasn’t blogged for a while. Aside from the busyness of this season with two little ones and the relatively low place blogging takes on my list of priorities, her first reason is one of my big ones: it feels like I have little to add to the internet blogging world. Sometimes I think if I ever wrote a book, it’d be just a list of books that I wish everyone would read. Or if I really wanted to blog regularly and knew I’d have a following, it would just be links to all the helpful articles that show up in my reader.
But another, more personal reason why I think I fail to write more is because of my reluctance to be exposed as in process. Honestly, I’m afraid of writing something that I’ll look back on with embarrassment. It’s not that I’m afraid of posting content that is inappropriate, but because everything I write comes out of who I am and where I’m at right now, pressing “publish” is like taking a snapshot of myself for the school yearbook. No one’s embarrassed when they receive their school pictures two weeks after they’re taken. They still look just that like, with the same glasses, braces, clothes, and hair. But a few years later, when you’re looking back at junior high, it’s a different story. That’s what it’s like for me and blogging. It’s the things I don’t know now, but will know later that I fear being shown as I write. (As one pastor said in an interview, I know that I’m not right about everything, but if I knew what I was wrong about, I wouldn’t keep thinking it!) I fear looking back at what I write and cringing at my assumptions, tone, naiveté, failure to nuance well, misrepresentation of other views, and prideful self-confidence. I am thankful to have had God grow me in wisdom, particularly in the last two years– that is, growing me to see my own lack of wisdom in the present and starting to learn to think ahead and at least consider, “am I going to look back at myself and how I feel I am SO right and shake my head at my own stubborn foolishness?”
For me, there’s an easy solution to prevent these cringe-worthy records: just don’t blog. There’s wisdom to that, I think– Proverbs says a fool is thought to be wise if he just keeps his mouth shut! And I don’t think anyone regrets not posting more on social media. But the thing is, this issue for me is more than just about blogging. Fear about blogging is just a tiny symptom of a life-long struggle (and, as a sidenote, possibly will be a small way to resist it).
I’ve never been a “process” person. Just get me to where/who/what I’m supposed to be, and then I can tell you about what it was like getting there. I think some would say that is perfectionism? I would say it’s probably one part personality, one part culture/upbringing, and many many parts pride. Wanting to appear better than I am, or at least not to show how I am weak. And exposed “snapshots” of myself scare me, not primarily in blogging, which is limited in scope and impact, but in relationships with people around me. As much as I shake my head at what I may have blogged about in high school, that regret or embarrassment doesn’t compare to the ways I look back at what I’ve done in friendships, or wrongly counseled, or foolishly said with zealous confidence. Most of it is the regret of hurting others. But, unfortunately, part of it is that embarrassing, self-conscious knowledge that someone else has seen my not-A-game, in-process, self.
I am often challenged when I think about Paul’s exhortation to Timothy to let all see his progress (1 Timothy 4:15). That means that he would have to allow them to see him not just as an end product, but him, not-yet-finished-Timothy, all the way through. I think I have had a pretty strong and self-conscious filter throughout life, and if left to my own I would probably be on my own, unexposed. But, but, (thank God!), but… I haven’t been allowed to be on my own. I have been born into a family that doesn’t give me that option– the family of God– where I can’t just go off the radar and where I’m seeing people every week as I serve, and parent, and face all that is what we call “life”.
Having the people of God around me and having relationships to look back on has been the hardest and best thing. It’s embarrassing thinking about those who “knew me when” and can recall certain things I said, how I prayed, what I did. More than that, it’s frustrating at times, God allowing me to go on my own enough to start falling apart and then in a tangible way, needing people around me. It’s tough being over my head with service, not doing things as well as I’d like, and with things falling through the cracks, needing to receive grace and forgiveness from others. It’s hard knowing that my weaknesses, sins, and blindspots affect those around me and knowing that they probably (definitely?) see more of me than I wish they did, even in the small interactions I have with and around them. It’s testing being seen as I parent, now that my capacity to self-filter is at a record low. But having the people of God around me continually in life is the most often overlooked and at the same time one of the greatest channels of grace in my life. That’s because as I relate with the people of God, I am being placed in relationships where I am who I am and no more than that. I am being forced to learn to glory in my weakness, to be a jar of clay, to find grace for my my not-yet self and encouragement that I am not yet who I will be.
Isn’t that amazing though? I should think about it more this way– the very fact that I can look back and say that I’m not who I used to be is a testimony to the power of God to change me. The fact that others put up with me when I wasn’t who I was supposed to be (and should I say, put up with me now though I don’t yet see why that would be so hard!) is to be received as grace from God through the kindness of others. That others can look at who I was and who I am and see a difference is meant to bring glory to the God who is bringing all his people from one degree of glory to the next. That some would come to me and say they have ever been blessed by God through me or that I am being used by God in their lives now is an absolute miracle in light of the weaknesses I had then that I now see. There is an experiential conviction that anything good done through me must have been the hand of God because he alone can display the glory of Christ through imperfect servants. And lastly, the fact that I kind of know I’ll end up embarrassed looking back at myself in a few years means that I am anticipating being changed by God– growing in maturity, growing in Christlike humility and understanding, seeing myself and others more clearly, and most importantly, knowing God more intimately.
It’s that I’m not yet who I will be that keeps me from wanting to show who I am right now. But that’s what I need to let you see so that in a few years, and in the ages to come, our God will receive all the praise and glory he deserves for the work he is able to bring about in one such as I. So, here’s looking forward to looking back and smiling, hopefully graciously, at a younger, less mature self. But oh there is more– here’s looking forward to Holy Spirit-wrought change, ever-increasing glory, and as there always has been, much, much more grace.