Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Noise Within the Silence

There has been a long, long span of silence in this little space. Save for my mom's birthday giveaway and the post about Christmas, there has been silence here for 8 whole weeks. That silence has not, however, extended to my heart, and it seems only fair to share with you some of the noise that has been going on inside of me in the past 8+ weeks.

Once upon a time, about four years ago, the ladies from our church had a "Lady's Night" that I attended. We had only been living in Ohio a few short months at the time but I forced myself to go and be sociable. The speaker that night spoke about the story of the Velveteen Rabbit. I don't remember her name or that much about her talk. What I do remember is that afterward she divided us into small groups and we were supposed to share with each other a gift that we felt God had especially given to us. I discovered that night that I found it almost impossible to admit that I had any gifts!

I had some very serious conversations with the Lord in the days that followed, and it was then that I accepted the fact that writing is a gift God gave me and I told Him I would use it. My writing changed a bit after that. I did things like writing for 31 days on subjects and more purposeful types of writing, not so much writing just to write. I let myself begin to dream big dreams...just a little bit. I dreamed of writing things that weren't just for a little old pretend blog. I dreamed of putting words together that were good enough to make lasting impact. I dreamed of writing a book someday.

I only dreamed a little bit; I was never taught to dream big and even the little dreams felt bold and proud and way too daring and braggy to say out loud.

All along this writing way I've had a constant love/hate battle going on with my audience. I've fluctuated between "O my stars, they read my blog??! I am never writing anything again! How can I write that when who knows who all will read it?? What must people really think?!" and "What were my stats on that post? Did I get any more likes? Any comments? Why did that post get so many views and that one so few??" and  "I love that person's input! It is so amazing how you can connect with people you've never met." and "Oh no. That person did not understand me correctly at all! Why am I doing this??" I've loved the growing audience and hated the attention. Loved the input and hated the growing pressure to perform.

I've had a few dry spells before and I took a few small breaks but this last time around has been different. The topic for January had been weighing on my mind and I just couldn't seem to write. So, one day I impulsively said that I would write no more until January and added that I planned to do another 31 day series when I returned.

I fully expected the words to come flowing in a couple of weeks. I was sure that if I knew I didn't have to write, that writing would be the thing I craved. I never once dreamed I could possibly go through two months in silence!

But the words didn't come. I felt no craving; no urgent need to write. 

At first it felt lovely! There was no pressure, no self imposed deadlines, no reason to scour life for good blog post material. I felt free and happy.

As time passed and the words still didn't come, the feelings changed. 

I found myself feeling completely  lost. Who was I without this urge to write? I felt like part of me was missing. What did I have if I had nothing to write? Had my self worth become so tied up in my blog that I couldn't live without it? What was God trying to tell me? What was I to do with all of this? Was it time to stop blogging altogether? 

Then there was the fact that I had left with the promise of a 31 day series when I returned. That somewhere back months ago I had heard God say, "There's your next subject." And I had agreed (however reluctantly) to listen. At least I thought He had said it, now I wasn't at all sure........of anything. 

I struggled along under the weight of all this for weeks. One friend told me, "He will show you." Another said, "Couldn't you just write whenever you want to when you start again? Or just do once a week so you don't have so much pressure?" My husband said "December isn't over, just wait and see what happens." And I said, "No one understands. Not even me." I wandered around aimlessly doing my duties and feeling more and more unsettled until one night I started crying and I couldn't stop.... So I got up and I wrote.

Basically, I wrote out all the things I just told you. Then, I turned my face to His and said, "What do you want to say to me?" 

Before I could be quiet long enough to listen, I felt the words come out - "Because if you want this little old blog and the bit of prestige it's given me, you can't have it." !!!!! Where in the world did that come from???? So that really was it! Well, I had known that all along, of course, but not in quite such a bald faced fashion. 

With many tears, I opened my hands and confessed my pride and my misplaced identity and my desperate hanging on. I still wasn't quite sure what He wanted to say to me but at least I had faced the lion in the closet and admitted my wrongs. 

My heart felt a measure of peace after my confessions but I still found myself searching for answers. Through the course of a couple of conversations, I realized that what I was looking for was impossible. 

It suddenly became clear to me that what I so desperately wanted was a "fix" for my problem; some certain things I could change that would take the struggle away for good. Maybe if I decided that when I returned to blogging I would never check blog stats again; maybe if I didn't write as often; maybe if I only checked for comments once a day; maybe if.... In my heart I knew none of those things would change anything for good. Well then, if there was no magic "fix" to the problem, maybe I should just stop writing. While my hand might be unclenched and laying open now, I knew me way too well!

The fact remained that I had told the Lord I would use the gift He had given. Was that a promise that should be broken?

The wise man at my house drew some word pictures that began to bring my eyes back into focus. Would a father be upset with his daughter's shining eyes if she showed him something pretty she had made for him? Was it wrong for a daughter to delight in winning her father's approval? Would a father expect his daughter to be perfect? Or would he be looking for her to do her best and no matter if she messed up, to pick herself up and try again?

Slowly I began to see that there was not some certain formula I could follow that would somehow fix my struggle. I realized it would have to be a "state-of-being"; a constant awareness of where I am placing my focus and who I am trying to please.

So, here I am. 

Today I am choosing to keep the promise that I made 4 years ago. I am choosing to refocus my eyes on the One who gives the gifts and deserves all the glory. And I am choosing to strive, not for perfection, but for the delight of winning my Father's approval.

I humbly welcome you to join me on this journey.


Juanita said...

Very beautiful, Bethany! I especially love the word pictures! When we get a glimpse of God's view it has such a way of putting things into proper perspective! Your honest heart is very refreshing! Thank-you!

Gina said...

Thanks, Bethany, for sharing so honestly. I think maybe many of us bloggers battle the same kind of emotions. Praying that God will give you grace to use your (His) gifts in a way that continue to bless those of us who appreciate your words.

Bethany Eicher said...

Thank you, Jaunita. If I remember right you were in my small group that long ago lady's night... It's high time for another supper date or something!! ❤