Why I’m Afraid to Write

I can’t count how many times ‘Write a Blog Post’ has popped up as a notification on my phone.  I’ve successfully avoided it time and time again, opting instead to do other “good” things that I can justify and feel okay about–but that do not challenge me in the way writing does.

I am afraid to write because written word seems so much more permanent than spoken word.  In a spoken conversation, my expressions are momentary, and if you disagree with me I can usually clarify on the move so as to make myself feel better about my stance.  But here, it’s just out there.  And internally, I deal with questions like:

You sure you want to say that?  Y’know, somebody could bring this up later and hold you accountable to this?  And you’re pretty young to be writing.  You sure you’ve got life figured out enough by now to start writing?  Tim Keller and John Piper would probably get a good chuckle seeing this naive attempt to make a point.  ‘Nice try, kid.’

Writing intimidates me.  I’m not sure I feel qualified to have a written opinion.  I’ve changed the title/tagline of this blog more times than I can remember.  I worry that I’ll someday run for a high-profile political office or position in vocational ministry and be presented with a question regarding a blog post I made when I was struggling to make a point on the internet.

Insecurities suck.

That’s all.

Church is More Than a Place to Make Friends

By most standards, my local church is a large–dare I say, megachurch.  A couple thousand people fill the seats every week.  My wife and I have been attending for about three years, before they moved out of the high school and into their exclusive space.

Occasionally, I ask my wife what I believe to be deep, introspective questions, like, “Why do we go to church?”  She usually rolls her eyes, uninterested in entertaining my squinty-eyed search into her soul.  But sometimes she answers.  Sometimes I answer first just to get things going.  Here’s what I think to be true:

We typically go to church for one of two reasons:  Habit and friends.

I was raised in the Catholic Church.  My wife was raised in a Southern Californian, non-denominational Protestant church.  We attend our current non-denominational church every Sunday partly because that’s just what we do.

We also go to church because, thanks to a few small groups we got involved in early on, we’ve made some friends who we enjoy seeing.  And if I’m being honest, I like being recognized by other people in the church.  I think it makes me feel important to some degree.  I belong.  I’m vested.  I’m noticeable.  I’m a part of something bigger than myself, and for better or worse, that makes me feel good.

But that’s not the point of church.  The point of church is to provide believers with a community in which they can worship and glorify God.  It is a place where we can identify and develop our spiritual gifts.  It is an environment in which we can encourage and love one another, and compassionately hold our members accountable to God’s commands.

The Point

I’m not saying it’s wrong to make friends at church.  Certainly, that will likely happen naturally as we encourage and challenge one another.  Rather, my encouragement to you (and myself) is that we would maintain a healthy perspective; one in which we acknowledge that while human relationships are important, we are ultimately living to glorify God, and no human relationship should be permitted to have a higher place in our heart that our bond with Christ.

They May Never Ask Where the Hope Comes From

I once worked with an older woman who always came to work smiling. She was always cheerful, almost to the point of annoying, but thankfully just shy.

I personally appreciated her attitude, mostly because I was a manager and I felt a level of responsible for the morale of our work environment.  That said, it never occurred to me that I might ask her why she was the way she was, or what motivated her joyful disposition.  I admired that aspect of her, but that’s it.  At best, I may have envied her, but that’s where it ended.

Maybe that says more about me than I’d like it to, but even now, I’m pretty content not knowing why she was as she was.  I suppose I assume now, as I did then, that she was a Christian.  But she may as well have been Mormon or into stones and healing energies or anything else.  Maybe her attitude was a byproduct of a great self-help book.  Maybe that’s how her mom was.  Maybe that’s how her mom was not.  Whatever the case, I never asked, and I’ll probably never seek her out in order to ask.

And here’s the thing:  I don’t think you would, either.

Hoping for an ask

1 Peter 3:15 encourages Christian disciples to “always [be] prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.”  And so we should.  But having an answer prepared doesn’t mean it ought only be offered upon request.  Jesus often took the initiative.

Consider:  If you are a Christian, and you sincerely believe that we have been saved from an eternal abyss that we deserve, and have instead been provided a means to eternal glory in community with the Creator of the universe, His angels and all the rest, how does it make any sense that we would only share this with those who are lucky enough to ask why we smile so much?

I realize no one wants to be the infamous “bible thumper” who scares more passersby away from the gospel than leads to it, but there’s got to be other ways to initiate the conversation.  Because while pouring soup and moving furniture is thoughtful, these things don’t set anyone free from eternal separation from God.  Truth sets us free.  Christ sets us free.

“How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent?” (Rom 10:14-15)

For Christ’s sake–for their sake, preach!

Anxiety

I get anxious because I often want to know that what I’m doing is important, and I worry that what I am doing isn’t as important as what I could be doing.  Opportunity cost.

Sometimes this creates healthy angst that leads to ambition that leads to results, like joining the Marine Corps or popping the big question. But more often I think this just makes me a pain to be around.  Too much dissatisfaction with the status quo and my place within it can easily becomes cynicism that doesn’t do much to foster change so much as it does create stress on those closest to me.

So, dear Andrew:

The time you spend with your friends and family is significant, and if you never get around to writing that best-seller or landing the dream career, but you do make time to regularly communicate to your family that you love them, and to your friends that you value them, that’s more than okay.  Goals are great, but fans won’t comfort and likes won’t love.  So relax, do your best, and thank God that everything that needed to be done was done.

Carry on.

But What Are You Doing About It?

Personally, regularly, and consistently.

There are many good changes to be sought, but complainers aren’t typically leaders.  So how are you personally contributing to the change you hope to see?

Float Story

In 2009, I was deployed aboard the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU).  I was a Corporal, and as such had deemed myself worthy of having a critical opinion of just about anything and everything Marine-Corps related.  My command, my company, and the Marine Corps infantry as a whole were common targets.

In reality, I had a very narrow view of the Corps.  There were many things that I didn’t know, and while my frustrations weren’t necessarily unwarranted, they were exaggerated.

So when it came time to create a “float book,” or a deployment-style high school yearbook, I naturally rolled my eyes.  Not long thereafter, I found out that I would be assigned the responsibility of organizing my platoon’s picture page in the yearbook.

So, being me, I invested some considerable time in developing the wittiest captions I could muster up.  I did so unaware that our company commander, a former infantry-enlisted Corporal himself, would be personally reviewing each platoon’s submissions.

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Fighting to Train

My witty caption beneath a photo of a few Marines on line, aiming in on targets, was a proud creation in which I flipped the common military phrase, ‘training to fight,’ so that it instead read, ‘fighting to train,’ which I personally thought provided for a much more accurate description of our training climate.  My CO wasn’t quite so amused.

Having summoned me to his office, the CO could have just chewed my ass and sent me on my boot way, quite rightly.  However, I remain grateful that he instead took a moment to hear me out.  He appreciated his non-commissioned officers (NCOs), and compassionately allowed me to vent my frustrations about our hurry-up-and-wait lifestyle and check-in-the-box training.

Captain Morosoff empathized with me that day, and then he asked me:

But what are you doing to fix it?  What are you personally doing about it other than bitching and moaning and making witty remarks?

That landed.

Sometimes I wish my pastor would say the same thing, because enjoyable and convenient as it is to chuck sarcastiballs from the bleachers, saying this is how it should and this is what you people should be doing, it’s not constructive.  And in reality, I’d probably do the same thing or worse of a job if in their position.

Takeaway

It’s not wrong to be frustrated, or to desire change.  But before we criticize our wives, our children, our employers, and our churches, maybe we ought to consider whether or not we’ve actually done anything personally to foster a difference.

I want the church to be more disciple-making oriented, but am I disciple-making oriented?  Can the church look at my life and not need me to say a word in order to see an example of disciple-making?  Can my wife spare the lecture from me on how she ought love and respect me, and instead see me loving and respecting her?  Or am I just talking?

If it’s wrong and it can be made right, what beyond moaning and groaning am I personally doing about it?  And if I’m not doing something to make the change I want to see, what can I start doing that doesn’t require the permission or endorsement of someone else?