It’s the (mostly) unspoken question that lingers under the surface as I’ve been telling people that I’ve returned to writing. In fact, the support received last week in response to my writing publicly again was incredible…overwhelming even. Exactly the kind of “feel good” moment so many people crave. Yet, the satisfaction of that particular craving is not the reason for my writing and is, in fact, a contributing factor for my long absence.
Like Punxsutawney Phil, the brightness of light cast my way when writing does indeed warm my soul, but also invites the “shadows” lurking just to the side and behind me and scare me back to the safety of my hole and away from the keyboard. Journalling maintains a “cloudiness” that maintained my safety these past four years and meant no one would see what I wrestled with…but also meant no others could see that they were not alone in their own struggle.
Hence, the reason for my return. Each of us faces each day anew and many wrestle and/or struggle. Feelings of isolation abound.
There are plenty of brightly lit “trolls” casting shadows in our world. Some of the trolls have morphed into giants. So much time is being spent casting words like stones (rocks and boulders, even!) at one another. Like Punxsutawney Phil, I retreated to the warmth of my journals to avoid the melee these past few years. Safe in my personal hiding place. Yet, the longer time I spent there, the confinement of a safe place tucked away from the trolls and giants began to crush me.
In January, my comfortable safety was disturbed. I held in my possession the final new words I’d ever get to read from Rachel Held Evans. Words that she herself did not get to complete but her dearest confidantes edited on her behalf in order to put one final creation of hers into the world. Her voice is gone from us far too soon. Over the years, she’d articulately voiced so many things I’d personally felt. Yet, her ability to write with an exquisitely measured combination that expressed boldness of conviction AND grace, I both appreciated and looked up to.
I know I will write more about her legacy for my life in the future but, for the purposes of this post, I mention RHE because, as I finished Wholehearted Faith, her final book, I uttered the words so many others had said already, “I’m going to miss you, Rachel.”
It is in missing her that my return began. In her book she shared that there had been time she almost left writing her own blog due to the heartbreak she experienced at the troll stones (rocks and boulders) that had been thrown in her direction. She shared that she’d been encouraged to keep writing and that she’d need to have “thick skin and a tender heart.” (p163) In reading those words I realized that my absence was related to a similar issue.
Writing publicly is an incredibly vulnerable form. Through the years, writing about knitting or seminary or travel enabled the writing to limit my own personal vulnerability. The topics themselves provided my own personal groundhog den of safety to retreat to. No light was shone on my own opinions or deeply held beliefs relating to matters of faith, hope, and love. Sure, I skimmed the surfaces of them, but never fully vulnerable…never fully exposed or open to cheers or ridicule. Safe. No need for my own tender heart to be matched with developed thick skin.
However, our world is filled with giants casting shadows long and wide and scaring people to seek refuge in holes of their own making instead of knowing that they are safe in the light of Creation…in the Light of the world. I am more concerned that the shadows could drive so many into hiding without experiencing the joy that comes in the Light.
What took me so long? I too was scared of my own shadow. I was scared of the giants. Truth is, I still am. Yet, I can’t remain writing in the safety. Yes, it has helped me but were there others for whom those words could also have encouraged and given strength? I’ll carry the advice RHE followed with me as I move forward on this new pilgrimage. I will attempt to maintain “thick skin and a tender heart” in order to help others be strengthened and encouraged. Let me ask you, what holds you back or sends you back into the safety of staying put rather than venture into or move forward in the Light?
…Coming up next time: “What’s your Armor?”…