In writing to you today I am pretending that you are one person, instead of the unwieldy and three-dimensional herd of actuality. It’s kind of hard talking personally to a herd. Condense yourself if you will. There, that’s better. You and I are sitting together over tea.
I want to talk to you about some of the feelings that led to my thirty-day vacation—peculiar feelings of rising panic.
Do you know those jokes you can only tell when there are no men around? Okay. And the stories you can’t tell your in-laws? Yeah. And the church issues touchy with your parishioners? Uh-huh. And the childhood allusions only Minnesota folks would get? And the deep stuff you want to tell your besties? And the chit-chat and old recipes you’d only share with new acquaintances?
What am I to say to you??
For you, dear reader, are my husband and my grandmother.* You are my parishioner and my mentor. You’re the younger lady I am to teach and the older lady I am to learn from. You are a man. You are a harried mother. You are a virgin. You are old and young. You live in affluence in America and at a mission in Paraguay. You are my childhood playmate; you are my dearest friend; you are a casual passerby. You are almost entirely unconnected with my real life; you are deeply intertwined with my affairs; I will never meet you. You are profoundly conservative in lifestyle and beliefs; you have been liberated from legalism. You are in great need of rejuvenation. You want to laugh. You are crying today. You care about health. You have been hurt by the church. You are crazy about Jesus. You wish I would stop these rants already.
*I am not making this up.
What am I to say to you?
In the real world, I spend my whole life talking behind other people’s backs: not maliciously, but judiciously. Friend X would be offended by a discussion on birth control; Friend Y will spread my words to the end of the earth; Friend Z has been hurt by this issue in the past.
Jesus said “Whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” Strong words.
I must think of you and your needs, what will make you laugh and what will hurt you. Yet the more I think of you, the less I write. Filtered through a security system that would make an airport run for cover, little is left to say.
I confess it: I cannot write when people are reading over my shoulder. My brain completely freezes. Yet you read over my shoulder each day. When I sit down to a blank Word page in an empty room, you are there, checking.
I admit still more: Blogging is of great popularity and limited usefulness. The demotivational poster from despair.com comes to mind: “Blogging–Never before have so many people with so little to say said so much to so few.” Did you know that over 100,000 new WordPress blogs are created every day? I don’t even believe in blogging.
And I get sick of hearing Me. So I invite in these charming, talented women to talk to you, and it quickly becomes obvious that you are chary of newcomers. I feel I must give that part up, though I am quite cross with you about it.
I felt great trepidation as the month of March drew to an end—rising panic that I must write again. “Must write,” I say, though my bones ache for it and it’s one of the things I was made to do. I yearn for it and shrink from it.
All my life I have majored on keeping people happy and not saying the wrong thing. Here I am being squeezed into a place in which whatever I say will be the wrong thing to someone; a place in which it’s hard to say anything at all; a place in which I cry for a nice safe cage. But I must write! And I can’t write only what I think you want to hear. Packaged into such an airtight box, all the spark dies out.
Your expectations of me are high; you like me a lot and believe in me. I blog to practice, to play. Yet you insist on calling it a “ministry;” what does that mean about the irreverent posts and the objectionable language? You take me seriously at a time when I am most earnestly striving to do the opposite. So I cannot listen to you, cannot watch you hanging over my shoulder; but it’s hard to hear something in the background for 365 days and not be changed by it in some way.
There are still deeper layers of reluctance. Layers within layers.
You praise my honesty. I look vulnerable to you, almost unbearably so. You send me private emails to compliment and confess, because you cannot bring yourself to respond so publicly. (I love them.) Do you have any idea how many things lie beneath my words to you? How many dark secrets I would never touch? How many bright dreams? Have no doubt it is fear in my eyes.
Happiness by way of blogging is an illusion; just like happiness by marriage, happiness by money, happiness by chocolate. (No wait. Happiness by chocolate still works for me. But even so.) Happiness is only by security in the Lord Jesus Christ, and blogging is one of the least secure places I know.
We have come full circle, back to the rising panic with which I began this letter. I am comfortable keeping secrets from you, but not comfortable ignoring this one big secret that was growing between us, walling me into unhappiness and shutting you out: There is a gap between who I am and who I want to be, and another between who I am and who you want me to be.
I had to tell you this, though I’m not going anywhere with it. I will keep writing. You will keep reading, if you wish.
Let’s be good to one another.