I’ve been sick since Friday morning and have had almost no voice at all since Friday afternoon. I was actually in denial of my own illness until last night, at which point I stopped trying to convince myself it was a severe allergy attack. Unfortunately, I had already exposed my colleagues at work on Friday and several church friends at a chili cook-off last night. After waking twice in the night soaked in sweat from fever breaking, this morning found me weak and exhausted. I fed and dressed the girls, then collapsed back into bed the moment that they left for church. I slept two more hours and was finally on the mend, folding clean laundry when they returned. My precious husband recognized my still-weakened state and offered (without even a hint from me) to give me one of my favorite gifts: time alone. I love that he can sense when I need it, without me having to ask. Even though he can’t always relate to me, he knows me. An hour after they returned home from church, he took our older daughter with him on a bike ride. “We’re leaving,” he said. “The baby is still asleep. Write.”
I wrote in my journal—something I’ve often neglected since I’ve been writing here. It is so hard to maintain both, but both are important in different ways. Today, I felt that what I wrote there needed to also be written here. It follows:
Sunday afternoon. Strong, black coffee and a Moleskine journal. Writing with pen and paper because it forces me to write slowly and with more thought. No backspace here. Mistakes can be covered up, but I cannot hide the fact that they happened. This is me, unedited.
I’ve been blogging for a year this month. On February 20th, 2014, I wrote my first post, “Cruciverb.” Almost one year and 38 posts later, here I am. Seventy-seven followers. One thousand, seven hundred seventy-eight views. One hundred fifty-one comments. Why all the numbers? They matter to me—and I think they matter too much.
Why do I write? What do I hope to accomplish with black type and a white screen that I can’t accomplish with ink in my own cursive handwriting? Why do I share my heart with strangers?
Because I’m lonely. Last night we went to a chili cook-off at our church. We sat at a table with two other couples, and the conversation quickly turned to God’s faithfulness to them in recent weeks. I listened and expressed my happiness for them—but it was difficult to connect. What if they knew of the struggle in my heart? Would they love me anyway—or would they cling tightly to their perception of God’s faithfulness, too concerned with defending it to reach out a hand to me? I’m lonely when I’m surrounded by people, so I find myself compelled to write to others. In writing, even to strangers, I find companionship. Alone, but not lonely.
Seventy-seven followers. Five (aside from my husband) who converse with me regularly: Ruth, Zoe, JJ, Howie, and Toad. Not one of the five (six, if you count my husband Russell) a believer.
Aside from the desire for companionship, I had a major goal for the blog—to soften the hearts of the believer toward the skeptic. Am I succeeding? Not by the looks of things—I have no consistent interlocutors who believe. I have deeply appreciated the friendships I am developing with others around the world who have left faith—but I didn’t want those to be the only relationships that came from this blog.
That brings me to my secret hope for the blog—that someone out there would find me and give me sufficient reasons to believe. That someone would say to me, “I’ve been stuck there too, and there’s a way out. Follow me.” I haven’t found someone like that. I know I can’t be dependent on others for my belief, and I keep trying to generate it within myself—consuming scripture with intense hunger, attending church, blasting worship music through the house while I clean. But at the end of the day, my greatest encouragement comes from those who don’t believe. The occasional believing commenter doesn’t return—my blog doesn’t attract that audience. I am thankful for the five—but is it worth so much vulnerability to try to gain five more in the next year? Is it worth it if my relationships there leave me farther from the secret goal of belief than I was when I started?
I check my blog stats during my first moments of wakefulness and during my last moments before sleep every day. Each time I check them, I’m seeking either affirmation or answers. Most days, I find neither. Most days, I don’t even have a blog hit. The numbers matter too much. My pride is too great, and the numbers are disappointing. I compare my blog to my husband’s, which he writes with his friend. Over 700 followers, acquired over the same amount of time. What am I doing wrong?
I have to decide what the grown-up response is and pursue it. Do I quit the blog altogether so I won’t judge the worth of my writing and the validity of my thoughts by the comments and followers that they generate? That seems too reactive. Do I take a brief hiatus and reevaluate my goals and my ultimate purpose for writing? That sounds a little more productive—but I know myself too well to be hopeful that I’ll ever stop desiring affirmation.
What is my message? Does the world need to hear it? And is it important enough for me to write it even if believers never validate my words? I still have to figure that out. In the mean time, I plan to do more reading than writing, more listening than speaking. There’s something that happens when I put my pen to leather-bound pages—and it needs to happen for a while.
[Image courtesy of Wikimedia commons, photograph by Andrea Pavanello]