Humbled into Pride (thanks & sorry) {a confession}

paul-pipe-bwLast week was an odd week on the blog. It was one that humbled me in such profound ways. The readers of this blog shocked and amazed me with their kindness, encouragement, and continued support of what I try to do here.

My series of discussions with my Atheist friend concluded on (what I felt was) a high note. The number of readers of that series numbered into the thousands, even though the writings were so long. (I copied and pasted all the posts into a single Word document just for the heck of it, and it was over 100 pages long–single-spaced! So if you read most of those, then congratulations, you finished a book in a week-and-a-half.)

People in all parts of my life were reading (at least some of) these pieces. People at work, church, Facebook, and Twitter all sought me out to encourage me in these conversations. The diversity of people who were keeping track of this stunned me and humbled me. I couldn’t believe how many people would spend their time reading stuff I wrote and listening to my own thoughts and opinions about things.

On Monday, I wrote a post asking for any assistance people could offer in helping me purchase seminary textbooks for this year. And people actually did! I really can’t express how odd this feels for this digital blog word to cross over into the physical. People bought me over $100 in books to support my re-entry into seminary. I still can’t believe people actually did this. Some of them were anonymous, and so to those of you who helped: Thank you! Thank you! You have served me and cared for me in ways far deeper than mere finances. I was absolutely blown away, and led to tears more than once. Seriously. Thank you.

Then, I received notification from WordPress that my “followers” of this blog reached 1,000. Granted, many (read: most) of those are probably spam accounts. But still, even the spammers saw this blog as worthy of their time! Either way, it was a really cool moment.

And then on Wednesday I wrote my sex post. And yeah… lots of people read and expressed appreciation for that post. I got numerous emails, Facebook shares, retweets, etc. I’ve had posts be really popular before. I’ve been featured on WordPress’ homepage twice now (of course, for posts that have nothing to do with the usual subject matter of this blog). I’ve been featured on others’ sites that have large followings. And all those posts have received lots of attention from readers.

But this post was different. It was, to date, the most popular single post I’ve ever written that did not have the help of some external influence in making it so. It was weird and unexpected. I know that sex usually sells, but even other posts I’ve written on the topic didn’t get this kind of attention. With the help of no major external force (that I know of, at least), this little post blew up.

I was so floored and humbled by you, my friends and readers out there, that I totally missed the size my head had grown in just a week’s time.

I posted an extended quote from some reading I’m doing on urban policy and theology. When I posted it on Facebook, my comment was something like, “this is for all you Republicans out there that don’t understand the city.” In response to a reasonable comment, I was simply sarcastic and talked about how much I certainly knew more about the topic than this person, so they should just take my word for it (I’ve since modified the comment to try and soften this).

I got in some Facebook comment fights with others (who may or may not have been related to me) over politics and the “idolatry” I perceived in their posts. With a couple of friends, I started imposing my critical judgments on their lives, rather than loving them in the these things and simply walking with them. I was angry and impatient, and anxiety starting creeping back into my life. And then I received a loving rebuke from the best possible source. And this rebuke was so spot on.

I’m really embarrassed to say that a mere week of affirmation turned me into a pretty miserable creature to be around. And so firstly, to everyone out there: I’m sorry.

I should have known. This has sort of happened before, though instead of arrogance, it produced anxiety. I wrote about it then and how I took a “blog fast” because of it. In that post, I included some prayerful words I wrote to God in my journal six years ago after experiencing a break-up and there being no friends around me to support me in it. I wrote then:

This is the way You work, I suppose. You will force me to You. You will let me feel isolated and disconnected that I may feel drawn and connected to You and You alone….

My lot is loneliness because I make people my idol.  When all I want is people to surround me, You will withhold it.  Not because of them, but because of me.  Keep me from frustration and bitterness. I love You.

Remember: I was raw from a break-up, okay? Yeah, that was a bit over-the-top, but the principle is still true. My temptation will always be to put more stock in what you people say to me than I should. I wrote some memoir pieces a few years back that unpacked some of this:

I became well versed in the doctrine, culture, politics, and judgments of my Southern Baptist context.

This was not borne of pride, mind you, as many are oft to assume. This was from a deep-seated fear; a fear that really has clung to me my entire life: that when all is said and done, I will not be found pleasing or loved….

This has caused me to walk with this damn swagger I find myself constantly having to try and shake off; that look of condescending pity I have when some “poor, naive, ill-informed” person is saying something I disagree with; that firm surety and dogged confidence behind every single word I say, no matter how inconsequential the topic. This is because my heart seeks to find its security in being right and acting right. Or at least feeling that way. All this formed much of the foundation of my personality–my default mode, if you will.

If there’s one thing I know, it’s that with my personality and weaknesses–like the ones revealed last week–without a community of people continually calling me out, refining me, and me being receptive to these moments, my doing anything “big” or “influential” in my life or on this blog will do a whole lot more harm than good.

And so, after years of asking for your attention, your visits, your time, and even your money, I need to ask all of you for something else: your forgiveness, and your prayers. Seriously, if you happen to read this, could I be so bold as to ask for you to mutter a quick 2-second prayer for me?

I need it, because I’ve had to fight this my whole life, and I still do. And this week, I slacked off a bit.

And I’m sorry. It affects the heart with which I write (and therefore the quality of the writing) and, more importantly, it betrays the spirit in which this blog exists: to serve and encourage all of us on our own “long ways home”. I hate when I distract from that. And I hope that as I get older, I grow better at safeguarding against that.

So here’s hoping (and praying) for humbler blogging!

[image credit: photo by David Schrott]


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