For nearly 5 years, I've been keeping this blog.
For nearly 5 years, I've been publishing my thoughts, my dreams, my ideas, my convictions, my questions, and my wonderings. I've posted them online for anybody to read. I've exposed my deepest thoughts, and I've revealed my biggest doubts. I've poured out my heart for the world to read.
I've put a lot out there. One good perusal of the hundreds of posts contained in this slice of the web, and you'll have a pretty good understanding of who I am. My history, my testimony, my passions, my adventures, my memories, my childhood. My failings, my humiliations, my mistakes, my regrets, my nagging sins.
5 years of writing from the heart. That's a lot of 'Me.'
I've always valued honesty and authenticity. But while I couldn't always have it among peers, I could always find it in writing. I could be blunt, I could be vulnerable, I could say exactly what I was thinking. At times it's been hard to work up the courage to click the 'Publish' button after finishing a post, because its content was just so raw and unfiltered. But I published them anyways. Because I wanted to always be open and real. I never wanted to hide.
But after 5 years of keeping this blog, the frequency of my postings has dwindled. I publish way fewer articles. 5 years ago, I probably averaged about 4 articles every month, even going up to 7 or 8 when I was feeling ambitious. And now, here I am, writing for the first time in almost 2 months.
And I'll tell you why.
Despite people's first guesses, it's not because I've lost interest in writing. In fact, I write much more now than I ever have- but far less of it is shared publicly. It's not because I've lost motivation. In fact, I've often found myself fighting the urge to post new articles to Facebook. I haven't grown bored of it, I haven't gotten lazy, and I haven't given up.
Rather, I've spent the better half of this year learning a new concept: Discretion.
A couple of months ago it occurred to me that I simply crave affirmation. Public approval has always been a huge motivator for my endeavours. I realized that I coveted the praise of man, and I sought the admiration of people. I may have denied it to myself, but I secretly always knew it was true.
And I know I'm not some special case. In the age of social media, online presence, and digital networking, persona is everything. Every moment of our lives can be shared. Every decision we make can be broadcasted. And every image of ourselves can be displayed for people's scrutiny and judgment.
Never before, in any civilization throughout history, has there been a time like this. While mankind in its natural, sinful state has always been proud, there has never been an era where public approval was so desperately desired... and so easily achieved. And not just by the powerful, but by the commoners. It's not just celebrities that get applause- it's the average Joe's. If you own a phone, you can find an audience. Build your identity. Boost your image. Convince strangers of your worth.
It's the epidemic of our time, there's no doubt. Yet, it wasn't just the social media craze that I discovered had taken a hold of me. It was the very desire to be known. I realized that in my life, there was hardly anything that was just between me and God. Nothing was kept secret in my heart. Nothing was kept sacred. Everything I learned, everything I experienced, I had to tell somebody. Otherwise... did it even count?
I realized that I could never be content with experiencing beauty for myself. I could no longer feel excitement or thrill without needing to tell someone about it. Everything I thought and felt simply had to be shared. I could no longer feel joy without feeling the pressure to publicize it. I could no longer receive insight without blogging about it. There was nothing quiet in my life. I had forgotten the discipline of treasuring things in my heart. Everything I saw, everything that happened, it all had to be put on display.
And though I may have rationalized it in the past by telling myself I was publicizing these things for good reasons and with pure motives, I couldn't kid myself any longer. I didn't only want to share joy for the sake of blessing others, I wanted admiration. I didn't sincerely want to inspire souls, I wanted to inspire envy. I wanted to promote my life. To be liked, to be known, and to be idolized.
I realized I was addicted to esteem. I was desperate for praise. And I realized that while I thought I had been pursuing excitement and adventure and education and significance, I'd really been pursuing validation. I wanted to prove to others that I was who I wanted to be.
And when I realized that I couldn't even stop and enjoy the beauty of a flower on my walk to work without sending a picture to somebody, I knew my heart had been taken captive by the world, yet again.
I wanted to be satisfied with living my own life to the full, even if nobody ever knew about it. I wanted to live well. I wanted to live dangerously, spontaneously, energetically, intentionally... even if that meant living anonymously. I wanted my alone times to remain just that: alone. I wanted to preserve the sacredness of solitude. I wanted to stop parading my special moments. I wanted to learn to cherish the little joys in my life, for only I can cherish them best.
I wanted to learn to be genuine and humble. Sincere and quiet. I wanted to grow out of my childish cries for attention. I wanted to mature. And no matter how much effort I may have put into it, no matter how much I might have forced myself to stop seeking validation from a screen, I'm convinced that it was God alone who changed my heart.
Since the very beginning, mankind has been falling into the snare of pride. In fact, it's the first sin ever recorded in the Bible. Adam and Eve wanted to be like God, and thus, they ate the fruit. It was Lucifer's pride that made him desire to be God, and lead a rebellion of angels against their Lord. And every time we choose to serve ourselves, prioritize our wants, chase our worldly desires, obey our own wills, or seek our own satisfaction, we do the same thing.
Pride. It's the worship of the self. And while I'm no theologian, it seems to me if one were to analyze any given sin deep enough and trace it back far enough, pride can always be discovered at the root. Sin is putting me before God. Myself before Christ.
I've always written a lot. I've filled so many journals, I've lost track. And when I first launched this blog, 90% of what I wrote in my personal journal ended up online, and maybe 10% was kept private. Now, it's fair to say that those ratios have switched. I'm still writing. More than ever before. So the lack of posts does not entail a lack of interest, nor a lack of motivation. What I think, and what I hope, is that it's a growth in discretion.
Over the past few months, I've been learning to be content with living my own life. I've learned to be satisfied with keeping my questions, sorrows, joys, fears, doubts, and hopes between me and God, and the few fellow sojourners whom God has given me as intimate friends.
The Bible speaks tenderly about the precious friendship we can have with God- the sweetest and deepest relationship we'll ever have. And with Christ as our intimate Friend and the Lord as our Guide, what more do we need? With our Heavenly Father being the One to see what we do, and with an eternal reward awaiting us one day, what good can human praise possibly do for us?
Matthew 6:5-6 - And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
Proverbs 17:27 - A truly wise person uses few words;
a person with understanding is even-tempered.
Proverbs 14:30 - A peaceful heart leads to a healthy body;
jealousy is like cancer in the bones
One of my all-time favourite reminders from these past handful of months comes from Proverbs 14:10, which reads:
Each heart knows its own bitterness,
and no one else can fully share its joy.
How beautiful is that? I may talk about my joy and rant about my griefs, but nobody I talk to will ever be able to fully share in my experience, except for God. God sees our hearts for what they truly are. And beyond him, nobody else will ever be able to fully grasp what we think and feel inside.
Have you ever tried to describe some treasured memory to a friend? No matter how emphatic you are, no matter how passionately you explain the precious moment.. they'll never understand. Or how about this: We've all experienced the frustration of showing somebody a song that means something profound to us. They may listen intently, they may even say something like, "Wow, that's beautiful." But somehow, their response will always be underwhelming. It will never be enough to satisfy us. Because no amount of appreciation from an outsider will ever match the intensity and significance of our own experience. Acknowledgement from a stranger will never be equal to the joys that fill us or the pain we suffer from.
But God knows exactly what we're thinking. He's the only One who gets it, and He gets it better than we do! He hears us, sees us, and knows us. Our very souls are no mystery to Him. And while I used to think it was a shame not to share all my joys with the world, I now think it's beautiful. While I once thought it was worthless to keep quiet about my deepest wonderings and reflections, I now find it refreshing.
Instead of aspiring to be known and adored, I want to be like a child basking in the beauty of the first snowfall... without having to take any photos. I want to be like a child, turning the backyard into a jungle or a ship or a castle, dreaming up stories and experiencing the delight of the imagination... without words. I want to be like a child, in awe of the world, of the stars, of the ocean, of the mountains... and content to store it up in his heart. I want to be like a child. Praying earnestly, and secretly. Opening up my heart honestly, and speaking in all sincerity and humility. Approaching God in private just for the sake of spending time with my Heavenly Father.
This discipline of treasuring things in my heart is one that I've found to be incredibly rewarding. (Luke 2:19, 51) It's taught me to be still, to seek wisdom with pure motives, to pray sincerely, and to come before God exactly as I am, without fear. It's taught me to think twice before sharing my inmost thoughts with just anyone. It's taught me to be careful with how much I say. It's taught me to prize my private moments with my Creator. To be slow to speak, and quick to listen. To confide only in the few people that I trust, who know me, and who love me deeply.
I'm not suggesting that we keep everything to ourselves. I'm not suggesting isolation. If we didn't share things with each other, there would be no friendships; there would be no community.
No, I'm simply suggesting the powerful potential there is in keeping guarded. I want to propose that there is wisdom in treasuring our deep longings and searchings, and learning to share these things with others sincerely. If I am to talk about my thoughts and ideas with somebody, I want to do it purely. Not for selfish ambition, not for personal gain, but for true vulnerability. For real encouragement. For fellowship and communion. I want to foster conversation that is pleasing to God, and that points to His Son.
And don't get me wrong- I'm not discrediting every post I've ever written, either. My primary purpose has always been to obey Christ and share Him with others. My goal has always been to serve Him, and hopefully be used by Him to bless others. And by the grace of God, He's used my writing despite my pride. He's used me despite my selfish ambition. He's used me, despite my major weaknesses and massive flaws.
By grace alone, He's done it. And by grace alone, I'm getting better as I go.