Our church is beginning the new year with a 21 day corporate fast. They believe that when we humble ourselves in this manner, God is lifted up and can transform His church and His people. The new year is always an opportunity to reflect on the trajectory of our lives, to dream about the coming opportunities, and to shift our priorities. It makes sense to set aside the first few days of the new year to reflect on why we’re doing the things that we’re doing, to press the pause button of our life-pace and allow ourselves to reflect on something other than the urgent.
But that really isn’t what this blog post is about. Well, kind of.
About a week before Thanksgiving, my husband (who is on staff of our church) asked me if I would write a 21 day devotional for the fasting time. It would be a booklet that gets into the hands of our members so that we are able to share this fasting experience with each other. That way, we’re focusing our times of prayer towards the same targets, linking our hearts towards the same needs, and receiving the same kinds of encouragement. We will all be walking through similar struggles, experiencing victories and breakthroughs, and able to lean on each other. It will allow us to form deep bonds and stay connected as we journey.
That isn’t even really what this post is about. Maybe a little.
What this is about for me is stepping into who I am. It is about putting myself out there for people to see. Blogging to a limited audience is one thing. Never really seeing peoples’ reactions to what you write, not sitting across from them as they read what you’ve written and scrutinizing their faces, and then, realistically, being forgotten soon after they read it, has grown to be a part of my comfort level.
But stepping out in front of my church community, caring about what they think about my identity as a writer, intimately being a part of their lives for 21 days, guiding this process that is so sacred…that is a whole other level of vulnerability.
Since I was a young girl, I knew I was supposed to write. I had all kinds of dreams, and each one of them hovered around crafting a good story. Not verbally telling one, in which one shoots from the cuff, but writing a story, playing with the words until they evoked an emotion or a memory. Working on the cadence of the words so that the beat of their rhythm drummed up a connection between people. I dreamed.
And then a guidance counselor triggered an avalanche in my heart that buried those dreams. He proclaimed over me (and in front of my classmates) that I wasn’t creative. I believed. I took that declaration, compared myself to others, and deemed that he was correct.
What that did for my future was to redefine my identity. To write original works, to tell original stories, one must be creative. And since I clearly wasn’t a creative, I must be relegated to editing. I would still be a part of the writing community, but be the one that takes other peoples’ creativity and makes it polished. I wouldn’t be illuminating my own ideas, I would be translating other peoples’ ideas so that they were clearly understood.
I didn’t write. Ever. Not even journal. A well-crafted thank you card every now and again, but that was the extent.
And then, over time, that strongly-held belief started to crumble a little. Very slowly. I would hear something about the character of God that made me realize that He was creative – and if He was creative, I just might be. A little piece of the foundation wavered. Or I would read something that was published and realize that I just might have been able to produce something as good or better – couldn’t I? A tiny rock of foundation dropped off. Then, someone who loved me would challenge my belief on my creative-less-ness and call out deep reserves of hope that I might actually be able to produce creatively, well-written material. And the foundation started swaying.
It was at this point that my blog began. I figured that I could safely experiment with writing in a forum that was quite shielded from the general public. There are so many blogs in the cyber-universe that I knew mine would go unnoticed. And yet, it gave me a reason to practice, a chance develop my writing style, and an opportunity to see what would come out of me when I disciplined myself to try.
We’ve now come back to the 21 day devotional. A public expression of a private discipline. An encouragement for a practice that I believe and hold so dearly. And a request to create something that could be of benefit to several. I couldn’t pass it up, and yet I couldn’t really do it. Could I?
I said “yes”. I told him I would give it a shot, and spent the next 3 weeks pulling away every chance I got, creating space to research and read, to outline and write. Just this morning, I sent the finished document to our church for layout and publishing. Holy smokes. What have I done?
I can’t adequately express what an act of faith this has been. What an act of obedience this has been. And when the new year rolls around and this devotional is placed in the hands of my church family, you might just find me hiding under my bed. Wherever I am, I know I’ll be a little closer to being who I was meant to be. I’ll be a little closer to living out the expression of who I am. I’ll be one step nearer to expressing His identity in me. And that is amazing.