I have done some things in my life that most people would find daring. That trip to Yemen when our car was turned around and sent back south because of Al Qaeda activity up north – that seems pretty bold. Passing by those jeeps with guns strapped on the backs of them would have scared my mother to death. It felt completely normal to me.
Living in the Middle East, planning another trip to Israel after the conflicts there last year – these things seem dangerous to some. They don’t make me think twice. God has just wired me that way, to love international people and travel, to be more comfortable outside of my own culture.
The things that feel more daring, downright frightening to me, are the moments in life where I have to be vulnerable to others. Opening myself up for criticism and saying what I really feel make me quake. The thought of others not liking me or, dare I say it, rejecting me? It makes me panic!
So when God started laying this writing thing on my heart, I resisted with everything inside of me. Sure, I have always written for myself. As long as I can remember, poems have flowed out of me like a steady stream. I could crank out a 25- page paper in seminary in one night – no problem.
But people actually reading my work and critiquing it openly? I would rather stay anonymous.
I still remember being teased in high school after a poem was published in a literary magazine and the person I, obviously, wrote the poem about splashed gossip about our relationship all over school. I remember – and I stay silent.
I don’t like causing a stir or drawing too much attention to myself, so when others prompted me to blog, to make my writing public, I dug my heels in.
But God kept laying it on my heart that there was something more He wanted for me to do. No more big trips or bold moves but obedience in the day-to-day.
My obedience would come in being vulnerable and open to others. I wanted to say no but my heart was wilting because I was willingly disobeying. So, I said yes – sort of.
I started to blog, went to that writing conference, even submitted a couple of pieces. After my first two submissions went unanswered, my momentum started to waiver. It was like those high school girls laughing at my all over again. Surely no one took my work seriously and I would never get it published!
In the back of my mind every time I write there is this harsh voice. This voice is ugly and demeaning.
It is my own.
She says, “what if something you say doesn’t match up with the theology of others in your church? What will people think of you?”
She torments me asking, “Are you sure you are interpreting that scripture correctly? What if you are misleading people?”
Sometimes she is downright mean. “You aren’t a writer. Why are you wasting your time? You have all of 16 people who read that last post. Why does it matter?”
Most days, I listen to that voice and end before I begin. But some days, I get a surge of confidence and dare to be brave. Last week, I got an email from an editor I respect, willing to work on a piece of mine to get it ready for publication.
At the end of the editing process, after I had rewritten my piece three times, I felt both exhilarated and worn out. So much work for one piece – how am I ever going to be able to write more than 700 words well?
I muzzled that harsh voice that is always negative, always doubting. I reread the editor’s words again and again, the ones where she gave me advice and said she believed I was worth it, that I had done a fabulous job.
Why is it so much easier for me to let criticism paralyze me than to take praise to heart?
Today as I was calling airlines about booking tickets to India for this coming winter that felt ordinary for me. Tonight as I am putting my heart on the page, sitting behind my computer, I feel like a warrior preparing for battle. I am quaking as I hit “publish” and make public the words that my heart fears to say.
Today, I dare to speak what God lays on my heart and try not to be afraid of what others think of me.
I dare to be vulnerable to criticism and rejection, trying to learn that I am fully and loved and accepted in Christ.
I dare to not give up even when I feel like a failure, to keep going when this second job that pays me nothing seems ridiculous.
I dare to call myself a writer and keep sending my work into the world even when I don’t feel like it.
Maybe my daring moves seem small to you but to me, they mean obedience in the face of great fear, and that feels pretty dangerous.