“Wow, you’re so famous.” I’m not.
“Who are you? You’re going places.” I’m going nowhere.
“It’s sounds like you speak a lot.” I really, really don’t.
This past year I’ve heard these phrases from well-intentioned people trying to respond to who I am. Or who they think I am. To who I’ve portrayed myself to be in the public realm.
It is a blessing to write and share my journey with others publicly. God has graciously brought healing and comfort and clarity into my life so that I can share that with others. In the Bible, it describes God as:
“the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” – 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
I love that. We are comforted to comfort others. Some people share their comfort journey in music, in art, in teaching, or in one-on-one mentoring. I love to share my comfort journey in writing. It’s a joy and honor.
But it also comes with a cost.
When you share your private life in the public sphere, there are many people who know intimate things about you that otherwise they wouldn’t. In my real-life relationships with most people I wouldn’t necessarily share those details because I don’t always have that safe space to. It’s not always appropriate to share with that new face at church or work, “let me tell you my story of abuse” without first being able to lay the foundation of trust.
Sometimes I like to keep things close to me, and it’s a burden re-living and sharing those stories. But in writing, the scope of my readership and those who can learn about the comforts I’ve received so that they hopefully experience God’s comfort too, is much larger. It’s an opportunity but it’s also scary. In some moments, like the conversations I quoted up top, I feel the weight of the cost of sharing.
The cost is that I lack control: over who knows what and their view of me.
When someone reads a story about my journey with abuse, rejection, singleness, or whatever – all they see is that story. Their view of me is often limited to those 800 words. And as a writer I need to be okay with that. I need to let go of the urge to say, “wait! There’s so much more to my life and faith than that story!”
I’m tempted to fear that people will reject or make assumptions about me based on what they read, without giving me a chance to build an in-person relationship with them first. I can’t control who knows what – and that’s a reality of living your life online. In being vulnerable and sharing your journey for others to read.
But I’m learning: God works best in that no-control space.
Yes there’s a chance that someone could read my story and it could create a barrier to develop a real relationship in person. But there’s also a chance that it could draw us closer together. In the space where I lack control over the results of sharing my journey, I see God work the most clearly. He can work in incredible ways in helping the reader receive the same comfort that he gave me.
This is the deep joy in sharing your private life in the public world. To expose those wounds also includes exposing the healing and transformative work that God has done in my life. Sharing my journey of comfort (and journeys of pain without endings), ultimately isn’t to point people in my direction but to point them towards God.
Not “look at my life” but “look at what God has done!”
There’s power in the written word. In reading another person’s journey of comfort can provide encouragement and hope for me whose on a similar path. That’s my aim in sharing my private life in the public world.