In the midst of fretting about not knowing what I'm doing, I've been doing some writing and noodling about what I want to be doing -- what I feel like my purpose and best gifts are. One day last week I opened my journal and asked myself what I'd like people to say about my writing. If I meet a reader for the first time in person, for example, what would I most like to hear them say about my work?
With barely any time for thought, I wrote down "Your writing makes me feel less alone."
A few other statements quickly fleshed out the basic idea. "I feel like I'm hearing from a friend when I read your blog." "I feel more loved now because of your writing." "I feel more like God loves me now, because of how you write about him."
I put a big sticky-note flag on that page in my journal and I keep going back to look at it and think about it. I noted a lot of the personal needs I felt last week and prayed about had to do with feeling lonely and wanting community for myself. I half wonder if I'm not just looking for someone to love ME, in writing down these statements.
But then, that sort of ought to be the point. From the very beginning this blog has been about telling stories from real life, about weakness and fear and not knowing what's going to happen next. My very first post is about the Bible story told in Mark 3, where a man with withered hands stands up in front of his community and Jesus heals him. I know my personal example in that story is the man with withered hands. I'm supposed to stand up and talk about problems, so we can see what Jesus does next.
I haven't always done a good job of this. One of my besetting, selfish issues is relying on my smartness to gain respect. In practice this means I don't let people get too close. I only speak up when I feel like I've got something clever enough to say. That's a problem in multiple ways, but here's one: when you feel lonely, it keeps you from experiencing love. It makes you feel like you're only ever loved because you're smart enough -- so what about the days when you don't feel very smart, or do things that are really stupid?
I feel like I'm gaining a better sense of my mission now -- recovering the original reason I started this blog, remembering that I'm not supposed to say "look and see how clever I am, people" but "I've got troubles and I don't know what to do about them yet." I'm called to stand up with my withered hands, my withered heart, my fears and uncertainties, so other people can see they aren't the only ones who struggle and so we can all see what Jesus does about it.
So maybe it's apt that I want to help other people feel less alone. Maybe if I feel alone myself a lot of the time, that will help me relate to other lonely people. Maybe talking about my own damaging habits and heart struggles will help me find change -- and maybe that will help other people find change too.