Wednesday evening, I chanced dinner with a new recipe involving peas—one of the few foods I've always firmly disliked. I was on a time crunch to get this dish prepared before Bible class and couldn't think of an adequately swappable vegetable before marching out of Publix. Plus, I'd polled my housemates over text and they all liked peas, so it was decided. Half an hour later and I'm in the kitchen, slicing an enormous amount of mushrooms and microwaving the spherical veggies in question. Y'all wouldn't believe it. I am now perfectly pleased by peas.
For maybe a week now, I've been rethinking the role of writing in my life. Before work, during church, past bedtime. All that evaluation and here I am, with 96 words on the serendipity of green peas. Try the recipe and thank me later?
Truly, though. I'd like to give some notes on my writing lest you think I've suddenly become a food blogger transforming Picky Nickys of the world.
Another person tells me I'm inspiring. They've clicked a link and read my words. After decomposing dozens of sentences, it's those words I've chosen to make public and with them, I've aimed to be truthful. Please God, I don't want to be inspiring. Not anymore.
I entered vocational ministry when I was 18, writing newsletters and Facebook posts chronicling my stay in Mozambican villages and beyond. I traded the traditional route of college for it and my friends back home began to say...
I could never do what you're doing.
It takes a special kind of person to do that.
Only 18? I wish I was like you at that age.
You're so brave! So inspiring.
They had elevated my choices and I'll admit, it made me feel good for a few years. In 2015, I left the missions organization and returned to the U.S. mainland. Since then, God has thrown out and ironed flat many wrong beliefs—as he does with all his growing children. I can see how this expectation to be only inspiring or spiritual began to develop 7 years back and an ocean away. I'd unconsciously made a god of myself. Many areas have been touched by this faulty expectation, writing included. I wish I could easily crumple up that darn lie.
When in its proper role, writing aids the life I'm living off paper and screen. It helps me call to mind what God has done and challenges me to make better observations of his gifts around me. I know something is whacky when I write to resemble someone I'm not. That's not hard to do, you know. I decided about a year ago if I'm not experiencing or interacting with God and the world apart from parchment and pixels, there's nothing to say. I'm here for sincerity, not make believe.
Here's the truth: my day to day life is not reserved to only depth or passion or grief, though they are present. It's more ordinary, practical, and amusing (the stories are endless!) than it appears. And I love those parts, too. If my writing is an extension of all I'm learning from God and his creation, then I want to do so more freely.
I've done you a disservice by writing from an obligation to remain "inspiring." It might've been a self-imposed expectation, but I'm through with it. Bob Goff wrote this brilliant line in Love Does, "I used to think rules were made by someone else, but now I know we get to make some of our own."
These are 5 new rules I'm giving myself on this little patch of internet-land:
01. I will write when moved by passion, brokenness, discomfort, and joy. But sometimes I will feel none of those things, and yet God will still lead me here, to the screen and to the keyboard, to keep up with the practice of writing faithfully even when I'd rather not. I will write even then.
02. I will write to collect and share memories. This means I can celebrate sometimes, mourn other times, and delight often in the ordinariness of life without feeling shame.
03. I will write earnestly about what I'm learning. As an outcome, I hope readers might actively join me in seeking God and his upside down ways. I hope they don't sit and think, "Inspiring. Could never do it."
04. I will write as a way of exploration. With words, with topics, with humor, with art, with my voice. It's okay to not get it right. It's okay to merge my altruistic personality and quirkiness and inner dork together here.
05. I will write and welcome others to come along. And I will also always give permission for someone to click away, to stop reading, and to choose to spend time elsewhere.
There you have it. Accidental rules on writing because somehow I formed a mantra on peas when I meant to have an essay on loneliness. (now that's a mouthful!) I won't feel poorly over it, either. Rule 02 exists because I need reminding even our most ordinary days have something to delight in. I could've been inspiring but today, I chose sincerity instead.
I'll write onward—with those rules like lampposts lighting my way.