When Your Voice is an Idol

We spend more time analyzing ourselves than ever before. With the rapid expansion of social media and technology, we live in a world constantly bombarded with self.

Which profile picture will I use for my avatar? What do my liked pages say about me? What interests do I showcase that make me look good?

We live in a culture that capitalizes on more than our personal tastes, it capitalizes on our persona, our brand. 

Whether it’s the TV shows we like, the books we read, the stores we frequent, or the places we go, there is a growing desire to share bits of who we are with others. You can tweet during your favorite shows, share excerpts of the books you read, capture your pumpkin spice latte and map your location down to your favorite neighborhood Starbucks.

Some would argue that this narcissistic bent is why connection is often difficult, why comparison and insecurity arise when everyone else’s Instagrams are so much cooler than yours, because you never eat watermelon in cowboy boots and a floral dress whilst leaning over a vintage table with the perfect yesteryear wash bathing the photo in golden hues. You just stand at the counter in your faded yoga pants and spit seeds into the garbage pail next to the pile of dirty dishes you have yet to get to.

And maybe you’re doing it wrong. Maybe the life you live is less than. Or maybe you are the girl with the cute boots and impeccable taste Instagramming away your seamless life? Even you know there’s more to your story than the pictures you share.

default of the heart

But social media or not, I think the human heart always seeks to compare. Our default is to be concerned and consumed by our own glory. If ever there were an idol of our times in the blog world, I believe it is our voice. Our need to always be heard saying something.

There are the shock value bloggers capitalizing on every current event, every controversial divisive line needing to be parsed and severed and inspected with scathing sarcasm and open letter rants.

There is the desire for our words to reach further, to impact more, to challenge or encourage or matter. But there is a grace-less way about always needing to have our voice heard. And there is the quiet despair for those who faithfully share their voice and stories to the humble reception of silence and wonder if they matter at all.

We gather at conferences and wonder about the elevator speeches we’re supposed to prepare summarizing who we are and what we offer. And sometimes I think we’re too practiced at saying all the right things that we never stop to listen.

Because at the heart of it all, we tie our performance with words and platform and branding to our worth. If our story doesn’t matter, maybe we don’t either?

And I know I’m not the only one, but I’m tired of it.  I’ve felt the sticky fingered lure of candy coating what is, at it’s core, pride. The syrupy tongued words that pave the way to a bigger audience have sent me writhing back to silence, like a child found in bloated emptiness amid a flurry of candy wrappers the day after Halloween.

I’m an advocate for story because I believe the word of God’s people, the testimony of His beloved brings glory to Him, connection to the body, and light in the darkness but there will always be the temptation to focus so much on ourselves, our story, our path, our contribution to this writing world, that we forget that to live a good story, we’d be wise to listen and slow to speak.

Because grace happens in the pauses, when we stop to soak in words that are not our own. We live better questions when we stop reciting what we have to offer and start to champion other people’s voices. Start to believe in the storyteller who’s writing our moments with a master’s precision. When we find our humanity not just in the words we craft but also in the words we cultivate. When we worry less about our own voices being heard and allow God to speak.

crafting words

 I will always champion God’s people using their voice, but let us also learn to hold our tongues and listen with bold ears and hearts wide open, and maybe then, God will speak and our words will be tinged with grace, soothing to our souls, and full of life.

Alia Joy

Alia Joy is a cynical idealist, homeschool mama to three little ‘uns, wife to Josh, book wormy, coffee dependent, grace saved, writer of random musings and broken stories, collector of words, attempter of all things crafty, lover of mustard yellow, turquoise, Africa, and missions. She lives in Central Oregon with her husband and three children and loves to visit big cities because there are no decent Indian, Moroccan, or Vietnamese restaurants close by. Maker-upper of words. Disliker of awkward introductions and writing in the third person.

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Worth Tasting

Worth Tasting

My college professor spread out our creative writing papers before her like a feast.  The sight of 12-point font made her eyes sparkle like Thanksgiving china.  When she took a paper up in her hands, she read it with the expectation that something in it was going to be worth tasting.

Miss Williams loved words.  She delighted in the way you could mix them up and create something so profound, it lingered on your tongue for days.  She read our own words back to us, slowly savoring the sentences  in her mouth and searching for the tasty bits of well-turned phrases and clever dialogue that clung to our unpracticed writing like bits of bacon.

“Oh, Lawd!  Oh, sweet Jesus,” Miss Williams said when the words tasted so good, it was like chocolate. “Girl…hmmm…I gotta read that again.”   And she would, double-dipping without an ounce of shame.

Sometimes, one of us nailed it.  When that happened, well, we may as well have served her warm cherry pie with vanilla ice cream dripping off the sides because she was going to eat every crumb, and lick the plate besides.

“Bless me,” she said when everything was cleared away and grades were scribbled at the tops of pages and she was wiping her eyes because she was so full, it squeezed the tears right out of her.

If you’ve ever made anyone cry over the stuff you put down between one-inch margins, you know it feels like being the person who brings homemade Butterscotch Blondies to the church potluck, only better.  It’s like being the caramel sauce. 

I thought I was the caramel sauce, too, until I found my old writing folder from Miss Williams’s class.  I was horrified to read through my final class project and find a typo right there on page two.  I wanted to call her up and yell, “You gave me an A+ when I had a typo on page two?!”

But I knew what she would say.  She would say that it was Mrs. Johnson’s fault I had a typo on page two because Mrs. Johnson taught grammar, not she.

Mrs. Williams’s singular job was to teach us how to cook up a good story.

“The hardest thing about being a writer is not remembering where to put the commas!” she’d say in class, suffering a plastic desk to carry the weight of her bosom as she leaned into her tirade.  “The hardest part about being a writer is writingYou have got to get over the fear of putting words on paper imperfectly.  Perfect writing is just imperfect writing that has had practice.

It’s too bad because I always liked perfection more than I liked practice.

“Nonsense,” Miss Williams said whenever I hesitated to show her my half-cooked words.  “We’re just tasting as we go, that’s all.  It’s the only way to make sure it turns out right.”

It was agony.  I auto-corrected in my mind as the words came off my lips, but Miss Williams wasn’t listening for dangling prepositions.  She was savoring the words and anticipating the way it was going to come together in the end as if she could taste it, even when there was nothing in the pan but baking soda and flour.

Always, Miss Williams made me feel like it was better to have something imperfect on my page than nothing at all. Because Miss Williams loved words, even words that needed a little bit of stirring before they were done.

When my final story came of the printer, hot and smelling of ink, it was exactly what Miss Williams hoped it would be.  She licked the plate and scribbled A+ on the top, not because it was perfect, but because it was good.

It can be crippling, knowing people are reading my work who might not love words the way Miss Williams did, the kind that pick at words instead of tasting them.

I encountered one such person recently.  She believes that writers are so uneducated and lazy these days, she stops reading as soon as she finds one mistake.  She says she can’t take a writer seriously after that.

One mistake. 

I agonized over her statement for days because that’s the kind of thing that keeps my pages blank.  That’s the part that makes writing hard, when I can’t start because I’m afraid of failure or what other people will think or whether I’ll end up with burnt oatmeal instead of strawberry crepes.

Because I have a typo on page two.  There is probably another one on page five.

But there is bacon on page three and caramel sauce on page four and it is worth putting the words on the page even if not everyone is willing to read along while you learn how to do it better.  It is worth the try because excellence doesn’t come without practice and practice doesn’t happen without mistakes. 

But there are always people like Miss Williams who will think it’s worth tasting, burned edges and all.

Kristen

Kristen is the main character in a story in which a redemptive God takes a reluctant mother on a journey to find and reclaim her story. Now the wife of an Army chaplain and mother of five, Kristen writes about the joy of being part of God's audacious plan.

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for when we long to be accepted

Hi. I’m the one person on the planet not going to Allume this year. Blah. Which is sad to me because I love my bloggin’ sistas. I love the late nights of talking and the sessions full of Divine wisdom and the photo booth thingy and the make-me-hyper coffee!

So I prayed about what I could possibly say to all of you amazing bloggers who do get to go to the conference, as well as to those who don’t get to go. And the word that came to me was “acceptance”. Acceptance.

 
Accepted
 

We all so desperately want to be accepted. That’s partly why I’m disappointed that I don’t get to go this year. I don’t want to miss anything. It’s also partly why I’m guessing some of you are nervous about going. You don’t want to feel left out.

I know that I know that some of you are spending sweet time worrying about what cutie outfits you will wear, because I’ve done that. Or worrying about what you will say, because I’ve done that too. Or worrying about what people will think of your wanna-be-rapping skills, maybe that one’s just me. When at the root of all that time and energy is a longing to be accepted.

But we get it sooooooo twisted. SO twisted. Because here it is. You ready? You and I will never ever find our ultimate acceptance in other humans. It isn’t possible. People are too volatile, short-sighted, and self-focused, just like us. And if we spend our energies looking to other humans for our acceptance and our identity, we will never truly embrace the woman that God created us to be. What a travesty.

If there’s anything I hope we each prepare before jumping into new things or jumping onto flights to new places, I pray we prepare our hearts. Let’s spend time looking at our Maker. Spend time meditating on the things He says about us. Spend time reveling in the beauty He whispers.

When we truly embrace who we are in Christ, we’re empowered to walk confident into a room of hundreds of other women that we’ve never personally met. Not because we have some haughty view of self. We can walk confident because we know WHOSE we are. And when we know WHOSE we are, we can know who we are — accepted and beloved, regardless of whether we’re wearing the trendiest pair of boots.

I don’t get to go to Allume this year — unless crazy, unexpected things happen. But I’m fighting those “missing out” feelings with truths that my God declares over me. The same truths He declares over you.

 
How have you wrestled against that nervous feeling of wanting to “fit in”?
What does our God say about us as His daughters?

 

Lara

Speaker and writer, Lara Williams ministers with a passion to see God's Word affecting the moments of our daily lives as children of the King. You can find out more about her at www.LaraWilliams.org or read her blog at www.ToOverflowing.com.

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