An Invitation to Live Quietly
I pushed my cart through Trader Joe’s, my littlest one eating his lunch in the child seat, the way we do every Monday after he gets out of preschool. We moved past the veggies and fresh fruits and I reached for bag of carrots and thought about Twitter. I thought about what I should be doing on Twitter. I thought about all the ways I fail in the “savvy blogger” category. And then I felt my chest thicken. I held the carrots and took them back to the cart and my little boy reminded me to get to tomatoes for this brother. All the while, I took deep breaths.
I felt ill every time I opened Twitter this past week. I felt ill when I thought about Twitter. This is how my anxiety manifests itself: In my chest, in my breathing. I felt it spread across me while I stood in the grocery store and reminded myself that I may not be a perfect blogger, but I work hard. I told myself that social media savvy is not my gift. I asked God to remind me of what I’m doing with a blog anyway. I breathed.
This is not normal. I don’t usually panic about Twitter in the grocery store. But this week has been an experiment for me in weariness. These months in book release mode have caught up with me. And suddenly, I’m overwhelmed by Twitter, that tool I’ve been using daily for four and a half years.
What’s that about? It’s about fear. I am weary in the presence of Twitter because of fear. There are rules and I am supposed to perform. I perform because I want to remain in the conversation. But it demands something of me that is beginning to hurt.
Last week I posted about the longing I have to slow down, to stop producing so much work, to be content with not being the loudest voice on the Internet. (Let’s all agree that a woman who writes a blog about spiritual formation and ordinary life is not going to be the loudest voice on the Internet….Let it go, Micha!)
I was amazed by this community’s response to that post: how many other writers and bloggers confessed their own struggles and fears of disappearing from the conversation. That fear of disappearing has a lot of control over the way I view my career. Whenever I consider backing away from producing the amount I produce right now, my heart pounds. I’m scared to death of losing my platform. I’m scared of losing you, readers.
Throughout my twenties, I carried a need to say something. I longed to write and be heard. I longed to be part of a bigger conversation but I didn’t know how to find that conversation. I’d stand in middle of a party and overhear a group of guys in the corner talking theology and I’d do everything I could do to get myself over to that circle so I could say something, anything. Now, I get to say something. Being part of a big conversation about God and prayer and faith is such a gift. And I love blogging for that reason.
What I don’t love is the machine of blogging. The rules of how and when I should use social media. The demands of how often I should get new content on my site. The frustration over what the crowds of readers want to read. Crowds are always going to flock to read about this week’s issue du jour and I know that covering “issues” is not my forte. I’m coming to terms with the reality that I write about prayer for a small niche of Christians. I am not a big-time blogger and I don’t have the bandwidth to be one.
When my inner monster shows up at Trader Joes, it reminds me that I’m not savvy enough. I’m not clever enough. I’m not successful enough. The Internet speaks loudly to the insecure striver in me. If I were more like this blogger or that one. If I were funnier. If I had more time. If I worked harder and slept less. Then I’d have more followers. Then my book would succeed.
Endless striving. Relentless fear.
Last week a writer friend responded to something I had posted about this in a Facebook community of writers. She said she’d been thinking lately on 1 Thessalonians 4:11. What does it mean to “make it your ambition to lead a quiet life”?
I started blogging because I had something to say and I still do. I feel joy and freedom in being given the space to write sentences and work through ideas on prayer and theology and spiritual formation. Those things are good. But when did it become my ambition to lead a big Internet life? When did it become my daily task to be loud enough?
I cannot be loud enough and I don’t want to be. Yes, I’m desperately afraid of losing my voice in the conversation. But maybe I don’t keep my voice by shouting. Isn’t this how it goes? You shout long enough you loose the ability to shout at all. I want to write words for the long haul. And I want to be faithful to the God who leads me and moves my insides toward new thoughts and the new visions and new freedoms. I can’t do that by shouting.
I’m not really sure what that means, but I think that passage in Thessalonians is inviting us to a new sort of quiet life. Perhaps not the kind of quiet life Paul had in mind when he penned his first letter to the Thessalonians. Paul could never have imagined the bright screens begging for our attention, the world of media and noise and over-scheduling.
But still the invitation is there: to lead a quiet life, to pursue the small over the sensational. To work with our hands, even if that work is typing out words on a keyboard. We are invited into humility, into contentedness. We are invited to follow Jesus into the role of servant.
Sometimes humility is the riskiest pursuit of all.