Recently, I received a bit of a promotion as a blogger. I was approached by the editor over at Patheos Evangelical and asked to come blog for them. It’s a great opportunity, and I’ve decided to accept the offer. I signed with Patheos last week and hope to move my blog to their site later this month.
This opportunity has given me opportunity for some soul searching–and lots of prayer.
As a blogger, I feel a pull in two directions. First of all, there is the constant need to market myself, to promote my writing, to sell my “brand,” and to get people to click on posts. To accomplish these goals, I need to be relevant and fresh. I need to write about things that people are talking about. I need to be part of the public conversation. I need to align myself with popular hash tags. I need to read the latest books and watch the latest shows. I need to get noticed.
There is nothing inherently evil about marketing. I live in a capitalist society, and marketing is how you get people to pay attention in this society. I have the vocation of writer; I believe I have meaningful things to say, and I hope to find an audience willing to hear these things. This is more than a pursuit of fame: it’s a calling. It is absolutely true that I need to market myself in order to fully fulfill my calling, in order to share my message.
But at the same time, I am pulled in what feels like the opposite direction. In my race to keep up with current events, to read what everyone else is reading, to follow hash tags, to give my “two cents” about every water cooler topic, sometimes I find myself losing what makes my voice particular in the first place. I am reminded of a woman who attended a church I worked at once. She would often come to the senior pastor and ask to be put on the Scripture-reading schedule because (in her words), “Everyone loves to hear me read.” The temptation with blogs and social media is to elevate my view ridiculously high and convince myself that every topic needs a personal statement from me. After all, everyone loves to hear me blog, right?
Sometimes I find myself getting addicted to affirmation. Affirmation is great. I appreciate it a lot. But sometimes a quest for affirmation can make me lose my sense of mission. When no one but God is watching, what is going on in me? Am I cultivating paths of discipleship in areas where no one sees? Am I taking the time to reflect, to go more slowly, to grasp my sense of mission and my message? Or am I careening along, worried that the world will pass me by if I dare stop and reflect?
Here’s the balance that I hope for: A humble willingness to engage deeply in some conversations, knowing that not all conversations will be possible if I can ever hope to listen instead of blasting the world with my voice. A willingness to write a little less in order that the writing and engagement might be careful, thoughtful, and faithful–not reactionary. An understanding that this is about relationships with people and demonstrating God’s love, not about (as Margaret Manning said at the LCMC Annual Gathering earlier this month) marketing Jesus as “the best product ever.” My mission includes a refusal to be about critique alone; rather, it is an attempt to build up far more than I tear down.
This is why Sabbath is important. I take a break from email and social media and the internet once a week. It’s not a legalism; there are a few occasions where I need to use the computer, and so I do. But the break from the relentless pace of the internet is a helpful rest to my mind. It re-centers me on my mission. It reminds me that I don’t balance the world on my shoulders, but that I serve the One who’s “got the whole world in His hands.” It reminds me that even though I feel like I have a message, it’s meaningless if I forget who I am and Whose I am. Most of all, it reminds me that this work is God’s, not mine. I can trust Him that whatever I really need to get done can get done in the time I have.
I welcome your prayers as I take my writing to a new platform.
(By the way, you’ll still find me blogging here until I transition over. And my writing and editing website will remain here even after the transition.)