Sometimes when I can’t think of anything to write, I go to other writers’ blogs and overwhelm myself with how much they have to say. I call it ‘inspiration mining’ when really I’m pulverizing myself with comparison. I read their best essays and scroll down their comments and marvel at how they manage to post blogs every single week, sometimes twice a week.
“They have so many words.” I think. “So many coherent thoughts.”
I envy the prosperity of eloquence.
Right now four finished blog posts are saved on my desktop, thousands of words I’ve written but am not ready to say aloud yet. They aren’t even secretive or alluring storylines, I just haven’t written the ordinary into buoyancy yet, into something that bears actual resonance.
This, I think, is the downside of blogging, the expectation that big thoughts come quickly and they are ready to be shared instantly. My big thoughts come about once a month, maybe less. And honestly I was going to post a blog yesterday, but instead I spent the afternoon scouring Internet resources on how to remove Sharpie from couch cushions. My daughter is a burgeoning street artist, you see.
On a dime, I can come up with about a dozen diaper jokes or punchy quips about motherhood and sometimes I can even paint a story in colorful strokes, but really the most personal dialogue of my life tends to simmer silently for awhile before I know how to narrate it on a blank page. This makes me an inconsistent blogger, which I think is okay, but it seems that over-explaining is the hallmark of this good girl complex I have going on.
There was a time I struggled with comparison mostly in numbers on a scale or on the size on a pair of jeans. Sometimes this still creeps up, but I find that now my sense of personal significance most easily unravels when I encounter people with big words and big ideas and such a large sense of self that they are more than a personality, more than a force, they are an actual brand, cleanly wrapped and delivered. They are a trending hashtag, a cause, a curated look. Meeting them is like encountering a parade.
Just look how at many followers they have.
Sometimes I misunderstand this as the primary objective. On my worst days, I mistake work as a way to deliver myself from my own smallness. It’s as if I absorbed the American Dream and firmly positioned myself in the capitalist model and assumed that God surely has forgiven me of all my sins but is still working to get over his disappointment that I am so thoroughly ordinary.
Often I hear people quote Jeremiah 29:11 as their favorite verse: “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” It’s such a beautiful promise, isn’t it? The problem, I think, is that sometimes I— and maybe you do, too— take the words ‘prosper’ and ‘future’ and assume that God is breeding righteousness in me purely to enhance my marketability, as if I am a star-in-the -making that just needs better representation and a nose job. When actually Jesus’ most famous sermon, The Sermon on the Mount, was a reversal of the traditional prosperity model. Suddenly, blessing wasn’t marked by riches or descendants or even fame. It was lavished on the poor, the meek, the self-aware small.
Blessed are those that are content with the proportions of who they are.
Oswald Chambers writes, “It is inbred in us that we have to do exceptional things for God: but we have not. We have to be exceptional in the ordinary things, to be holy in mean streets, among mean people, and this is not learned in five minutes.” This excavation of the ordinary might be the mightiest spiritual discipline. It is the invisible storyline, the one we cannot summarize instantaneously or even after a period of five whole minutes.
So on days I mistake peers as rivals, when I get swept up in the vicious tide of competition, I re-read the most famous sermon.* I recalibrate my definition of ‘blessed,’ transferring it from an exterior place to an interior one. I repent for my lust for largeness, my preoccupation with parades. And slowly I remember that blessing isn’t a summit on the other end of a climb. It’s not a standard to be earned. It’s an inheritance I’ve already been given, a kingdom already come.
I don’t think God pegs people against each other. I don’t think he sets up too few chairs, turns the music on, and amuses himself by watching humans compete for a place at the table. I think there is already a spot reserved for each of us, a name placard at each seat that is spelled correctly and positioned on purpose. I think being saved by Jesus rescues us from erratic ambition. We are rebranded under a banner that mercifully does not bear the merit of our own name.
Blessed, then, are those that sit at the table, knowing they are quite small, and realizing that somehow that is quite enough.
And prosperous are those that are learning this five minutes at a time.
* Matthew 5 in The Message translation