When I began blogging it was a very solitary experience. Yes, I was putting work out there for the internet to see, but for the most part it was largely written in isolation and then sent out to a void with very little feedback. Which was fine at first. Still is much of the time, actually.
I am the type of person that wants to earn a gold star on anything I do, even if it’s just for my own enjoyment. So I started down the never ending rabbit hole of research. What drives blog traffic? Who were the other bloggers that wrote similar material?
And I unintentionally awoke a beast that had been sleeping in my soul.
This beast has the name “Comparison” engraved on the spiked collar around his neck. He’s got “Envy” and “Doubt” tattooed across his bulging knuckles—he has six fingers on one hand so that this metaphor continues to work—he eats weak, insecure, lonely writers for breakfast. He leaves nothing in his wake but bitterness and a dusty hard drive full of lost dreams.
He had come for me and I was an easy meal.
As I began to read more female writers the beast growled in my chest. What started out as a pathetic I’m-awful-and-every-one-else-is-incredible turned into a nit-picky they’re-awful-and-don’t-have-my-depth-of-insight. I started to feel all Smeagol-ly clutching my Bible and commentaries to my chest. My precious! Mine! Only I get to dive into the depths of these riches!
Fortunately for me, though somewhat unfortunate for my pet beast, if you have a heart that is honestly seeking the Lord it is nearly impossible to interact with scripture and not be convicted. It cuts to the marrow and exposes to the light the darkness we hide inside.
Unlike the beast, the Lord was tender with me. He led me to a lesson in Bible study about the danger of comparison, especially among women. He reiterated the importance of teamwork in accomplishing His purposes. He told me to pray blessings on the women who brought out the ugly feelings of jealousy in me. So I did. Sometimes it was really difficult.
One afternoon I got to the end of a heart-wrenchingly beautiful memoir in a magazine and I felt the beast flex all eleven claws. I prayed for the Lord to help me pray good things for this woman when all I wanted in my flesh was to start down the dark mental spiral of envy. I got through the prayer only to read her bio and see she had a blog too. It was a fresh punch to the gut. Of course she does and I bet it’s awesome.
Fighting against all the feelings the beast fought hard to shred me with, I grabbed the laptop and forced myself to punch in the site address. I loved her work. I felt the talons of jealousy begin to take hold, so I stopped and put my head down on the kitchen table and prayed that the Lord would bless her and expand her ministry. That Marlena Graves would walk into all the plans He has for her.
Less than a year later I met this woman who had stirred the beast to the apex of my battle, the gracious and talented Marlena Graves. I met her in Chicago, at the annual retreat of the Redbud Writers Guild, which I had discovered by clicking the banner on Marlena’s blog all those months ago when the beast thought he still had a meal ticket in me.
In God’s seemingly backward redemptive way, it was fitting that at the end of the weekend she would place her hands on my shoulders and pray over me, petitioning our Lord for wonderful things for my life and work.
It was more than I deserved but I’m learning that abundance is just how God operates. There is no limit to His provision for us. No proverbial pie that we need to be fighting for a slice. Only the richest of feasts beyond what we could think or imagine waiting to be enjoyed in community.
I went into that weekend nervous about meeting strangers off the internet and praying the beast wouldn’t make an ugly, dramatic appearance. He certainly tried. It’s almost impossible to be surrounded by the static power and electricity of a room full of talented women and not feel a bit burned. But the Lord gave me an escape by bringing me to a moment He shared on a beach with Peter in John 21:20-22. He had just told Peter some news about the future that wasn’t exactly what Peter wanted to hear. In what I would guess stemmed from his own struggle with the beast of comparison, Peter looks around and points to another disciple and basically says, “Well, what about that guy?!” Oh Peter, I SO GET YOU.
In Jesus’ typical turn-it-back-to-a-question-answer He replies, “What’s it to you?! YOU follow me!” (Obviously, my paraphrase and emphasis added).
He reminded me that my job is to wholeheartedly, unswervingly follow Him. I’m not to be distracted by what He’s accomplishing in the lives of my brothers and sisters. Their work is important, and so is mine, and we so need one another as support not competition. We are to encourage one another and lift one another up. Which is, in fact, what we were doing in Chicago in the fist place.
Rest in Peace, Beast.
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:20-21
**An extended version of this was originally posted October 14, 2013 at DepthoftheRiches.com.
Thank you, thank you for your honesty! I’ve been fighting the monster too. Cheering you on in your walk to be and write what God has called just you to be and write.
I love your paraphrasing and I think what you have written here is important for all of us, not only in Redbud, which has the awkwardness of an online community where some of the members have met face-to-face (sort of like the communion of the saints where some of them are in Heaven), but in any other group we approach in which the members are credentialed in differing ways. You have beautifully delineated the variety of fears that arise to choke interaction. Your description of your meeting with Marlena captures the hope we all have for a Divine resolution to our fears. I need to hear this. Not because I have issues with Redbud writers per se (and wouldn’t I love to be able to meet them all!) but because I am trying to “sell” my writing to a community of doctors, psychiatrists, neurologists, music therapists, educators, religious leaders, parents, caregivers, and others almost all of whom have degrees and specialties I am addressing with my humble B.A., my independent research, and a novel, physiological discovery. Picture David and Goliath where David is a senior female citizen and Goliath is a high-profile (choose one of those in my list) in his (not many women in that list) professional prime. Same Beast. Same need to depend on God to bring me to the perfect person who can help bring my saving knowledge to the world. Thanks for sharing your courage, Lady Dragon-slayer.