I've been doing this writing thing for a little over a year and I’ve tried a lot of different takes on this process.
I’ve tried focusing on being a positive uplifting voice. I’ve tried being like a stereotypical “you can do it” life coach. I've tried going to the comedy route writing as a funny dad trying to get a few laughs or giggles here and there from others. I've tried being considered strictly a fiction author only wanting to be put in the same category as others like Stephen King, J.R.R. Tolkien and others. I've tried so many different things trying to focus what it is I'm trying to present myself as. Yet, in the process, I did something I'm not exactly proud to say.
I kept myself from using the voice that was truly within me. The voice that is the only one that truly matters to me. The voice that talks about God.
I was always trying to point people in the right direction and hoped my writing would lift people up in a way that at least get them looking towards something positive. But I never went any deeper than that. I’d get just on the cusp talking about my faith, the only thing that matters more than the world to me, but every time I would approach that line something within me would push back. So I would talk about it in ways that wouldn't “close the conversation” to those who weren’t followers of Christ.
I'm so frustrated thinking of this idea now because this is the exact voice that is not only mine at my full-time job as a youth minister but it’s the voice that drives me. It’s the voice that comes out of me. It is my voice.
Yet what I've been doing has created within myself two separate messages that are close but not same. And now I realize the real reason of my poor, unfulfilling decision.
I'm afraid. Very afraid.
To tell you the truth I'm afraid of what others will think. I'm afraid how I could be perceived by some. I'm worried that I could talk about things that will send people who might not be people of faith running away. And there is something in me that is frightened by that.
We all, at some point, are afraid of this very thing. We all want clear, across-the-board approval. We all want to be liked. But the reality is, if we let the fear win, then we simply allow something much worse to happen. We become someone we are not.
BUT THERE IS CHANGE IF YOU”RE OPEN TO LISTEN
My perspective and my outlook on this whole process changed recently when I took a mini-vacation of sorts with my wife for my birthday. I was listening to one of my favorite artists’, Ben Rector and a song came up on his new album that I hadn’t heard before. The songs name? Fear. (You can give it a listen HERE.)
It's a song about going through some significant change both outwardly and inwardly and that he’s afraid but he knows the one thing he can't do is run away so he listens to the one voice that will guide them through. The only voice that matters. The only voice that can lead him inwardly and come out of him as his own-The Lord’s. It woke me up to see that I was indeed afraid.
I was that person who ran away in the opposite direction. It's who I've been here. A person who teetered on the brink of saying how I feel but worried that I'm going to hurt some feelings or offend by talking about Faith.
It’s almost like I was Batman (only missing all the fancy gadgets and and money). By day, I would go out to my full-time job (which is way more of a calling than a job) proudly proclaiming who Jesus is. Trying to serve him in the best way possible. Showing students ages 12 to 18 exactly who God is, how much he loves them, all in a powerful message of how all that comes together through the person of who Jesus Christ is. I've done my best to help bring their story together with God’s story.
And then, by night, it's almost as if I would shift. I would go and try to tell stories just to be a storyteller. Writing about things, talking about things, sharing blog posts or stories or articles that would be uplifting in nature or inspirational in their message. I would never come out right away and say exactly what I wanted to say. I was afraid to use the voice God gave me. Worried and fearful that I would either screw up or turn a person away with what I wrote.
That's the reason I change my site 19 times in the past 19 months. That's the reason why my message was never clear. Because I was ignoring the message. I was trying to be somebody else rather than being myself. Rather than being who God has called me to be.
LETTING THE VOICE WITHIN COME OUT
Ever since I was 12, I knew that I wanted to talk about Jesus and I wanted to share the message of who He is and how good He is. But I shied away in hopes that I would gain an audience different from the one that I've gained by being a youth minister or working in a church.
The apostle Paul says in Romans 12:2 “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (which happens to be our main theme this year for our student ministry).
This was me. I was conforming to the world. I was going away from the will that God nestled into my soul. Instead of following the renewed mind Christ set out for me, I did my best to ignore it. And so many do this in so many different walks of our own lives. I’m proud to say that will no longer be the case.
Take this for what you want, whether you care at all or whether you don’t. No longer am I my going to sit here talking about myself. No longer am I here to simply promote. No longer am I going to rant and rave on and on about how great my next book will be.
As my favorite band NeedToBreathe said when they were at a crossroads as a band, “The only thing that will matter to us, above all else, is our faith.” I choose to stand here as well.
Above anything else, I will answer the call I’ve had within my heart from the beginning. I will proclaim the name of Jesus. I will tell others about how good God is. I will share blog posts about issues and topics that are relevant in our faith and culture today. In the process, I will continue to write stories and books and produce podcasts that point to our Faith in the Great God that we have.
I no longer will hide in fear from the voice that tried to get out of me the past 19 months. Multiple times a week, I’ll be right here. Bringing the Word and discussing our faith openly and clearly.
So call me a Christian artist. Call me a preacher. Call me a sellout. Call me whenever you want. But don't call me a coward. I will
I will no longer conform to society so that I can get a bigger audience. I will no longer turn around and run. I will no longer further myself from the message that saved me. I will do my best to bring your story together with God’s story.
I will dance with my fear. I will stand firm and use the voice God instilled for the purpose of my story-my own. I'm done making a name for myself. I'm ready to make God's name known.
May you do the same in your story.