Writing and wronging: learning lessons as I go along

Jan Feb 2012 002Recently I have rather gone off blogging.

There’s a lot I could say, I’m fascinated by the current resurgent feminism that is highly active in many Christian circles. I want Christians to have a grounded, reasoned, theological and compassionate understanding of equality. And I want it to make a difference.

I want Christians to have confidence in their beliefs and not fear their doubts. I could write a lot more about that.

I want the church to be a place where we stand close enough to each other to see the pain in the eyes before words need to be said. When tears are greeted with arms wide open and not a shrug of the shoulder.

I want the church to be a home for the fatherless. A refuge for the widows. A community for the lonely. A sanctuary for the forgotten.

I want the church to be united.

But that doesn’t mean I want dissenters to be silenced. I’m sure I’ve been guilty at times of playing the unity card. You know the one, a bit like the race card, the good intentions, honourable goals, but brought out to end a conversation

Unity is not unity if we stop those who we disagree with from speaking. That’s uniformity.

* * *

I was asked what my blog was about, and a friend kindly explained it was about how we should ask more questions. But I also remember that the question is not the end.

I think doubt is a good thing. I think it is what provokes us to think again. It reminds us of the seriousness of what we are doing. The act of doubting and looking for reassurance is the act of remembering that we are not alone.

Once I was in the depth of my most serious doubts about God’s existence. I was on a train, I was lost in my maudlin thoughts. And I was arguing with a God I was ready to consign to the heap of non-existence. And then I realised. I was arguing with God over whether he was really there. I granted him enough status to engage with, but I only wanted Him on my terms. I wanted a god I could define, a god I could control. A god that was not a god at all.

Because God is not at our whim. But nor is he distant. For a long time I had an image of God as standing behind me, with his arms wrapped across my chest. And I didn’t like it. I wanted to get in the face of God, I thought that was the pinnacle of worship. I thought that’s what a good encounter with God meant.

But if I am looking in God’s face then I am facing a different direction to him.

* * *

Writing is not a status game. And living a life of worship is not about status. Or perhaps more precisely it is. It is about being downwardly mobile, constantly seeking to get closer to those who are in the greatest need.

I had a difficult entry into blogging. The stats for my first month took a while to top. And even then only by a month of dedicated writing on relationships last summer. I’m told my honesty and vulnerability are what makes my writing worth reading.

But being vulnerable is hard work. There are mornings when I head into work exhausted from pouring everything onto the keys. From saying words I know others are saying in the quiet huddles and furtive asides. Words that they think shouldn’t be spoken because they’re not spoken out loud. But when they are said under the breath of so many people they need to be given oxygen.

That’s why I write about relationships, it’s why I try and get to grips with things I struggle to live out myself.

It’s why I’m looking for the words to explain the challenges so many face in living a life of faith.

Sometimes there’s also a place for a bit of controversy. Sometimes I don’t agree with something. I may be on my own, my views might be wrong, they might be unfair, they might be misinterpreted, they might be used in a way that I would prefer they were not. But that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t speak.

Because unity requires honesty. If the body of Christ is to be more than a nominal label we apply when we want to, then disagreement has to be engaged with and not sidelined.

Last week I wrote a post and lost a night’s sleep. I disagreed with someone, and they disagreed with me back. I think that is okay. I don’t mind someone disagreeing with me. But something in me wanted to keep the peace, I didn’t want to cause a ruction, I wanted people to like me and I was afraid that publicly disagreeing might mean that some people didn’t.

I’ve mentioned being close to packing in placing words I scribe in this place. And I’ve been told not to do so. I like the affirmation I get, I like the kindness of friends and the support of strangers. It’s a nice ego trip but it’s not enough.

I will carry on writing hard things and I ask you to be my editors. To tell me when I cross the line, to share wisdom that I do not have. To encourage me and to call me out. The words may be my own but I want to learn more, and I need you for that. In the work we do we have supervisors and managers, in church we have leaders and support, in our family we have each other.

When we write we are also part of a community and we need each other. I certainly need you.

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