Monday, August 5, 2013

'Keep on speaking'

Acts 18:9-11 (NIV)

One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.” So Paul stayed in Corinth for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God.
My post Tuesday about the 17-year-old who wrote into Ask Amy wondering why everyone is giving her such a hard time for wanting surgery to keep her from becoming a mother generated quite a bit of conversation between Facebook and Google Plus (as a G+ novice, I had to be directed to the latter). The newspaper column I filed today consists almost exclusively to feedback from last week’s piece. One of my favorite things about writing is generating and engaging in discussions about my chosen topic, and it’s a neat coincidence that two pieces on the same day about completely different issues yielded essentially a week’s worth of conversation.

What I really appreciate is being challenged on my positions by thoughtful folks who clearly understand my writing and wish to push me deeper. As I wrote to one friend on Facebook, “I very much appreciate this dialogue. You all are making me think a good deal about my writing, and I have to keep re-reading the post to see if I said what I thought I did, or if my words conveyed my actual feelings.” And yes, the rereading also alerts me to the typos I didn’t catch the first time around.

As such, the words God speaks to Paul are encouraging to me as well: “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. …” They inspire me not only to keep writing — here and my paid gigs — but also to actively work to encourage dialogue in any possible medium. While I’m not wavering on my principles of faith, my matters of opinion on the way the world works are certainly open for discussion. I love being forced to truly think about and defend my position because it helps make sure I fully understand what I’m saying and why. When good friends and family members are willing to help me along the path of discovery, I feel like we all benefit — even if none of us ever actually budge from our starting viewpoints.

Ultimately I lack Paul’s courage to speak boldly in every arena regardless of potential for harm. I couch my words, position my stances so as to appear respectfully dissonant rather than outright offensive and have been known to back down from something truly controversial in the name of fostering unity. I worry at these times God is judging me for my reluctance to be bold, but it’s counterbalanced with a worry that my choice of when to be bold would counteract with God’s wishes. And then I worry the latter worry is just a way to make me feel better about the former. There’s a lot going on inside my head.

So thanks to the readers and the responders. Thanks for engaging me, for questioning and challenging and especially for making my work a two-way street. It’s personally validating, which isn’t the primary purpose, but it certainly keeps things interesting and helps with the motivation. And some days, I need all the help I can get.

A prayer for August 5:

Lord, speak to me. Speak through me. May the words I write and say be not only pleasing to your ear, but help me form them — teach me what to say to whom, and when and how to have the most impact. Open my mind to the thoughts of others and let my words be a launching pad for conversation that inspires all who participate to think deeply and grow in the process. Amen.

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