I used to have a thing for bird watching. Now, I didn’t get a book and binoculars and perch myself in a tree to watch. I just liked to pay attention to the small dark shadow flitting above my head, or in my peripheral. If I turned in time, I was rewarded with a glimpse and was mesmerized.
I never paid much attention to the different songs, whether mating or alerting or just singing. I can not differentiate a female robin from a chickadee. I know the names of common avians, but that’s about it. To watch them hover in the air on a surgeing gust across the plain is to witness the impossible.
To see the diving speed and precision of a hunting bird careening toward the ocean, only to see it pull up, beak straining wide with its target, a large and wailing fish, is to witness beauty.
When a bird thrusts its delicate wings out and literally flies into the face of wind, the bird is doing what the bird was created for. When the beak reaches deep and plucks up fish, nature has done its work. And the God of creation smiles.
Lately, I have been listening to the drone of a voice in my head. Last year, it told me I could not run. This year it tells me I can not write, I can not communicate, and if I can, I am certainly not Jesus-y enough.
The Voice says that if I don’t start talking about Jesus more, people won’t like me. That if I am not flagrant about my faith it will cost me book sales, or worse, friendships.
Many of the writers I admire have strong believing voices. They write clearly and plainly about spiritual ideas in ways that have never sounded natural or convincing coming from my virtual pen. But The Voice beckons. It says I must hone this. Or else.
Someone asked me recently hoe my book was doing and wasn’t that exciting and blah blah blah. She didn’t really ask me so much as begin a monologue about another writer, whose book had touched her soul so completely that she is a tried and true fan who reads this author’s blog every day and tells everyone about it. What had started as a polite inquiry into my work, and which I was prepared to answer, quickly turned into something else entirely. I was not upset that my friend had found a writer she liked. I was not upset that she did not let me answer her question.
I was…confused. I was happy to be asked about my book and happy to discuss other writers. But then I felt defensive, like I had to explain why my book takes a different tone and that I made those choices purposefully. And then I felt attacked: for not being as extroverted about Jesus as this reader, woman, acquaintance wanted me to be. I felt, in a word, judged, and found lacking.
Now, could just be me, reading between non-existent lines for criticism. I wouldn’t put it past me. It could be the fragile ego of one who wrote a deeply personal book, feeling vulnerable to have it exposed to the public. Wouldn’t put it past me. Or it could be a mistrust of my voice, not The Voice. It could be the same old song in a different tune.
I wrote, in my un Jesus-y book, about how I had to learn to run my own race, on my own time, with my own legs. Now, it seems, I must learn to do that with my words, even though I’d like to think I had already figured that out. And perhaps this is one of those persistent poos, the kind that stick and stick and stick, so that when it is handled on the race course, it turns its stink onto the page, or the parenting or the wife-ing or the whatever.
Here’s the kicker: for other people, my book is TOO Jesus-y. There’s too much Grace and God and happy-clappiness. So, I can’t win, when I try to quiet every single existing voice that might or might not read my book.
I can only hover over the land, staring into the gust on the fragile wings I have. I can only speed above the waters, using the eyes I have to locate and use the words I need to communicate what it is I want to say. I can not worry that my friends are good at writing about Jesus; I can not worry that it is resonant with so many. I can only write, or parent, or run, the way I was made to write and parent and run. And rely on the best voice, the one that whispers, “you are mine.”