It would take space much greater than a blog post to tell you the impact my trip to Chicago last weekend had on me. It’s taken me a week just to process and internalize it enough to blog about it. I’ve had well intentioned friends and family members ask in passing, “How was your trip?” having no idea they’re about to launch into an hour long conversation.
Where do I start? What piece could I tell that would not need the contextual support of all the other moments before and after to do it justice? There were surprises God had in store all weekend that blew me away. I touched C.S. Lewis’ writing desk! Or the fellowship that lasted late into the night, the sacred experience of my first time reading my work out loud for a group, life changing conversations with people who sat with me at breakfast, walks in solitude across manicured grounds, and a million other moments equally impacting. It was all very beyond my beyond I tell you!
I’m not going to hash it all out here, ain’t nobody got time for that, but instead I’m going to tell you about the lesson God taught me that brought me to the magic that was last weekend.
As you may know, I recently celebrated my blogiversary. When I began blogging it was a very solitary experience. Yes, I was putting work out there for the internet to see, but for the most part it was largely written in isolation and then sent out to a void with very little feedback. Which was fine at first. Still is much of the time actually.
I am the type of person that wants to earn a gold star on anything I do, even if it’s just for my own enjoyment. So I started down the never ending rabbit hole of research. What drives blog traffic? Who were the other bloggers that wrote similar material?
And I unintentionally awoke a beast that had been sleeping in my soul.
This beast has the name “Comparison” engraved on the spiked collar around his neck. He’s got “Envy” and “Doubt” tattooed across his bulging knuckles– he has six fingers on one hand so that this metaphor continues to work. He eats weak, insecure, lonely writers for breakfast. He leaves nothing in his wake but bitterness and a dusty hard drive full of lost dreams.
He had come for me and I was an easy meal.
As I began to read more female writers the beast growled in my chest. What started out as a pathetic I-suck-and-every-one-else-is-incredible turned into a nit-picky they-suck-and-don’t-have-my-depth-of-insight. I started to feel all Smeagol-ly clutching my Bible and commentaries to my chest. My precious! Mine! Only I get to dive into the depths of these riches!
Fortunately for me, though somewhat unfortunate for my pet beast, if you have a heart that is honestly seeking the Lord it is nearly impossible to interact with scripture and not be convicted. It cuts to the marrow and exposes to the light the darkness we hide inside.
Unlike the beast, the Lord was tender with me. He lead me to a lesson in Bible study about the danger of comparison, especially among women. He reiterated the importance of teamwork in accomplishing His purposes. He told me to pray blessings on the women who brought out the ugly feelings of jealousy in me. So I did. Sometimes it was really difficult.
One time I got to the end of a heart-wrenchingly beautiful memoir in a magazine, and I felt the beast flex all eleven claws. I prayed for the Lord to help me pray good things for this woman when all I wanted in my flesh was to start down the dark mental spiral of envy. I got through the prayer only to read her bio and see she had a blog too. It was a fresh punch to the gut. Of course she does and I bet it’s awesome.
Fighting against all the feelings the beast fought hard to shred me with, I grabbed the laptop and checked it out…
Less than a year later I met this woman who had stirred the beast to the apex of my battle, the gracious and talented Marlena Graves. I met her last weekend in Chicago, at the annual retreat of Redbud Writers Guild, which I had discovered by clicking the banner on Marlena’s blog all those months ago when the beast thought he still had a meal ticket in me.
In God’s seemingly backward redemptive way, it was fitting that at the end of the weekend she would pray over me, petitioning our Lord for wonderful things for my life and work.
It was more than I deserved but I’m learning that abundance is just how God operates. There is no limit to His provision for us. No proverbial pie that we need to be fighting for a slice. Only the richest of feasts beyond what we could think or imagine waiting to be enjoyed in community.
I went into last weekend nervous about meeting strangers off the internet and praying the beast wouldn’t make an ugly, dramatic appearance. He certainly tried. It’s almost impossible to be surrounded by the static power and electricity of a room full of talented women and not feel a bit burned.
But the Lord gave me an escape by bringing me to a moment He shared on a beach with Peter in John 21:20-22. He had just told Peter some news about the future that wasn’t exactly what Peter wanted to hear. In what I would guess stemmed from his own struggle with the beast of comparison, Peter looks around and points to another disciple and basically says, “Well what about that guy?!” Oh Peter, I SO GET YOU.
In Jesus’ typical turn-it-back-to-a-question-answer He replies, “What’s it to you?! YOU follow me!” (Obviously my paraphrase and emphasis added).
He reminded me that my job is to wholeheartedly, unswervingly follow Him. I’m not to be distracted by what He’s accomplishing in the lives of my brothers and sisters. Their work is important, and so is mine, and we so need one another as support not competition. We are to encourage one another and lift one another up. Which is, in fact, what we were doing in Chicago in the fist place.
Rest in Peace, Beast.
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:20-21