Sorry to come back from one month away with all these words. And, with these particular words:
People often ask me what I do. “I’m a writer,” I tell them.
“Really?” they ask. And then, “What do you write?”
“I write about faith, and about race in the American church. Stuff like that.”
Sometimes, that’s the end of the conversation. But sometimes, people want to know more. They ask questions, or begin a dialogue, and sometimes they come around to, “So, how did you get started?”
That’s when I tell them I’ve always written. Mostly in journals. But, one day, a co-worker suggested I might like blogging, so I gave it a try. As blogging goes, one link led to another, and then another, and before I knew it, I had established new friendships and developed a following of sorts. Then, God opened some doors, and now I serve part-time as the managing editor for The High Calling, while writing and speaking and listening to disco music in my spare time.
Quickly into the whole blogging scene, I developed a fondness for a few specific (at first I typed “notable” — hold that thought) bloggers. Probably the same people you admire. I read every single one of their posts and dreamed of the day I could be like them. I followed them on Instagram, liked them on Facebook, and tweeted their posts with wild abandon. With every Facebook like, every little heart turned red on Instagram, and every re-tweet, I was building in my head an unsolicited pedestal for those bloggers.
Early on, H tried to gently make course corrections, as he clearly saw me headed for the abyss (wise man that he is). I’d have comments on my post which I essentially brushed aside choosing instead (I’m ashamed to admit) to dance around the family room in my socks when one of those bloggers I admired left a few simple words in my comment box. I know. Not good. It gets worse before it gets better.
“What’s going on?” my husband would ask.
“Look!” I’d practically squeal, pointing at the computer screen. “Look who left me a comment!”
“Who?” my husband would ask.
I’d resist the urge to grab him by the back of the head and press his face to the display. Instead, I’d trace over the name of said blogger with my finger and say her name. And then…”She’s a big wig!” If I raised my hand to receive his high-five in celebration, he surely left me hanging.
“Big wig?” he’d ask. “Really?”
“YES! Absolutely yes!” I’d answer without hesitating.
H would raise his eyebrow at me. Literally. Then, he’d say, “What do you think she’d say if she knew you were calling her a big wig?” Clearly, this man does not understand blogging, I’d think to myself.
“Oh,” I’d answer with a wave of my hand, “she knows she’s a big wig.”
Eventually, I found myself dropping names. (If there is one thing I find very difficult to stomach, it’s a name dropper. You know how people say the characteristic that bugs you most in other people is the very characteristic you hate in yourself? It’s true.) I’d mention my “connection” with so-and-so in casual dinner conversation, or I’d talk about a book I’d just read by a particular author and follow up by saying, “We’re friends on Facebook.”
In blogging, there is a very crafty way to be a name dropper. It’s when I cleverly link to a post of a blogger I admire and then type the words, “My friend [insert name of big wig].” By adding those two little words, “my” and “friend” I have instantly elevated myself into the inner circle of that specific person, without her even knowing it. And, I’ve effectively left my readers out of the inner circle. I have made myself a big wig by first building her up, and then by telling you she’s my friend. Tricky huh?
Here’s the thing. She might really be my friend. But, let’s think for a minute about what we do here: As a Christian who writes, I write as part of the Body of Christ. And, as far as I can tell, the phrase “Christian celebrity” is an oxymoron.
Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion. (Phillippians 2:5-8, MSG)
If we’re going to start talking about Christian celebrities, let’s begin and end with Jesus. And if Jesus is the standard, let’s be sure we don’t skip over the humbling process; the selfless, obedient life; and the worst kind of death.
There are no big wigs here. Insisting on a playing field where the ground is not level is just one way to feed the machine and to build up walls that divide us. If God gives us the gift of writing it’s to be used for his purposes only.
We create big wigs and celebrities and then we beg them to notice us because, if they notice us, we are someone, right? I need them to be notable (and not merely specific), so I can be notable by association. I know publishers want you to tell them about your followers and your Klout and your subscribers and your speaking engagements and I totally understand that. Wait. Let me be honest. I partially understand that. But, business cannot trump truth, and friendship should not be a commodity.
Remember Gideon? Remember how God whittled Gideon’s army down to three hundred men who had no place to go and who happened to drink water from their cupped hands instead of directly from the stream? God’s not worried about numbers.
Remember Moses? Moses reminded God that he was no public speaker, and that he didn’t exactly have the best reputation among the Israelites or those in power. But God wasn’t concerned about Moses’ popularity. Or mine. Or yours.
Remember Rahab? A prostitute in the lineage of Jesus. Yeah. God’s not sidelined by your past or your story. He redeems it all.
We know this in our heads and our hearts, but we — okay, me — I live as if I’ve never heard a sermon about my standing in Christ Jesus. I scramble after likes and re-tweets and comments like a person who has never had her heart washed over in a tidal wave of grace and mercy. I read about the love of God and then walk out the door, forgetting what I look like, even though I have a mirror in my hand. Good grief! For God so loved the world…
The other day I was reminded this whole blogging world is sub-culture. Most of the world has no clue about these people whose comments I covet. Mothers around the world are searching for clean water for their children, and praying they don’t have to sell one of those children into slavery in order to put a meal on the table for the rest. And if I could just get my head screwed on correctly, I might wake up and understand God has given me a gift and a space with its own built-in megaphone to shine a bit of light in the dark places of this planet that spins on its axis in this universe God’s entrusted to us.
The enemy would have us clamoring for celebrity and he would fool us into thinking we can put the title “Christian” in front of it to make it holy. Jesus is the one and only celebrity, and he showed us how celebrity is done. Us? Well, we are the Body of Christ.
So since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ’s body, let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t. (Romans 12:5-6, MSG)
Okay. I’ll stop here. I could go on and on, I guess. That’s what happens with one month off.
I think about that question H used to ask me so long ago, “What do you think she’d say if she knew you were calling her a big wig?” and I want to hide under the covers for at least a year. He was right. Again.
How about you? Do you have all the thoughts about these things, too? Or do you see it differently?