There is something terribly evocative about 2 am on a cold, autumnal night. It's a time most sane folk would be abed, snuggled up in mounds of blankets to keep the chill out of their dreams. It's quiet, unnaturally so, and beautiful, oh so beautiful. The apple tree outside is just barely visible through the gloom. And here I sit, trying to explain an idea that's been going around for some time.
Have you ever had a thought that keeps haunting you for a significant amount of time, but when you try to remember what it is, you can't? That's what has happened with this one. I touched on it briefly in conversations with two different friends, and then promptly forgot it when I tried to write it down. But I think I may have grasped the elusive thought this morning.
I am an incredibly judgmental person. Now, before you go on to say that I'm not or some other such false nicety, you are entitled to know the truth. While what comes out of my mouth may not sound bad, I am entirely capable of scathing criticisms within the privacy of my own mind. This comes, in part, from the fact that I am incredibly opinionated - no more so than on the issues of the Arts and Christians witnessing in a secular culture. Those two issues will, without a doubt, cause some internal diatribe if I hear someone disagreeing with me.
But more on that later.
I also know what I like. I've been accused of collecting people the way some people collect stamps. Rather than having "true friends" I tend to surround myself with interesting people to observe and interact with. While this is a gross-overstatement, it is true to a smaller extent. I like my friends to be thought-provoking, and the best people to provoke thoughts are the ones who are not like me. This goes back to my addiction to conversations.
See, I like to hear other people talk, because I learn a lot about them. "Them" is interesting, so I want them to share their opinions and thoughts and dreams and, basically, their essence. Every good conversation divulges a little about the participants, and I love that slow unfolding of a personality. This desire for genuineness extends into my taste in blogs.
Now, before I go any further, I'd like to ask you to postpone your judgment on how much of a jerk I am until you've read the entire post. Your cooperation is appreciated.
There are a lot of blogs out there written by Christian young women that are essentially daily/biweekly/weekly/monthly devotional sites. The are polished and precise like the brain behind a gun should be, but I'm living in some kind of ecstasy and rational and often read very much like CS Lewis and there is nothing so theologically wrong with them that I have any reasonable reason for disliking them as much as I do. In fact, they are great displays of the strength of belief that the author(ess) possesses. More power to them for posting it online.
However, I cannot bring myself to read these sorts of blogs, because when I do, I feel as if I'm reading an exhibit intended to show off the authoress's spiritual prowess. Like the blog is more about giving a mighty fine showing of Christianity. The constant spiritual content overwhelms me and off-puts me, because rather than seeing a person writing their thoughts down in an almost permanent medium, I see someone showing off. I seldom post about my convictions, but when I do, it's always heart-felt. When I read these devotional blogs, part of my realizes that I would never be able to continuously upload that content without delving into fake reserves of spirituality and sanctification. Thus, I deem the posts fake and ostentatious and not something I'd like to read in the morning before heading to work.
But if I'm being perfectly honest with myself, I feel like a really bad person as well. If it's true that the mouth speaks out of the fullness of the heart, then what does that say about the contrast between a devotional blog author and me? What if these posts are genuinely meant and the devote, polite, well-spoken and reasonably well-educated author is actually like that in real life? Not only do I become the biggest jerk on the planet, but that would also imply that my daily testimony is insufficient and lacking. After all, I'm not a good enough Christian to be able to post multiple devotional blogs every month. I don't even manage one per month, as it is. So the fullness of the heart influences the mouth - Polished Anonymous Christian Bloggers: + 1,000,000,000,000,000, Me: -0.
Not just that, but operating on the assumption that these blogs are the genuine article, why do I not enjoy them? You'd think that any true Christian would want to read spiritually uplifting content in the morning before going to work at a job where the boss is constantly ragging on Christians. Why do I not enjoy writing these blog posts myself? Do I not have a firm grip on the joy of the Lord?
These thoughts have been swirling around and around in my head, and here's the best conclusion I've been able to come to.
The Bible talks about various spiritual gifts and callings. It's clear that some people are called to be pastors or apostles or evangelists, the list goes on. Even today, some Christians feel called to wave signs and march on the State Capital and hold banners above crowded freeways. That approach has always rubbed me the wrong way - While it is true that laws "legislate morality" by enforcing certain standards of conduct, it is impossible to write a law that dictates what morality people subscribe to in their hearts. It's safe to say that I do not feel that calling at all, and have not the inclination to wave banners for the cause.
Yet, when I see a man panhandling on the side of the road, or walk past a very clearly mentally-ill person in the city, my heart breaks. I want to cry, I want to act, I want to scream at all the fortunate people going on with their daily lives while ignoring the oppressed because ignobility makes us uncomfortable. And then I shove a couple of ones toward the pan handler and wish I could do something more. What's more, it really, really ticks me off that some Christians do not feel that level of commitment to the poor and the outcasts of the world. In all likelihood, this is the same frustration the politically active feel towards me when I decline to wave signs or join their march on Olympia.
As near as I can tell, God created every personality uniquely. Everyone's essence is separate, describing them and them alone. God wants to use us to work His will, but not to the destruction of the person He created us to be - if He wanted His will without that uniquely human element, He could avoid all the troubles of humanity and just use angels. They're more reliable. ;) So persons are unique, and God purposes our persons to specific tasks. To some, He gives the desire to encourage other Christians. To some, He gives the desire to reach out to non-Christians. Regardless, God uses imperfect, eminently personable people to work His will in different areas.
That style of blogging doesn't do anything for me -- it clearly works wonders for others. My care for today's "widows and orphans" doesn't reach everyone I meet -- but it doesn't have to. It only has to motivate the one meant to hear.
So should I guilt myself into enjoying devotional blogs? Probably not, but knowing me, I'll continue to do it anyway. Should I continue passing out harsh judgment on them? No, and I'll have to struggle to be more open and understanding.
Ultimately, it comes down to this analogy my dad is fond of using. Heaven, he says, is going to be like the greatest jazz jam session ever - full of improvisations and personal touches on the same celestial theme. The instruments will all reflect that Melody through their work, but each one will approach it from a different standpoint.
I'll take a longer-term comfort from that, but in the meantime, I'm going to need all the grace I can get. :)