Lately, I have been struggling for something to say. What can we say, after all, that has yet to be said? The wisdom of King Solomon strikes again. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness to the flesh. And this was true before the moveable-type printing press, let alone twitter and wordpress.
But there is a temptation that I feel, if I can go on a bit of a tangent on a Thursday morning, a temptation to say something truly brilliant. Each time I sit down to translate my thoughts into words I feel a drive to talk about my successes and the things I have figured out. I feel the temptation to lie. But if I can create an alternate reality, maybe- just maybe- I can say something for the first time. Then I will be well known. In the words of Moses, I want to make a name for myself.
And for as many times as I warn others to stay away from the lure of idol-casting, I find myself in need of the same warning. I find myself in need of the same gospel.
The other day I came across the prophet Isaiah, when he was telling stories about a man who would cut down a tree, chop up half for firewood, and carve the rest into an image of his god. With half, the Lord points out, he warms himself in a fire, and with the other half, he bows down to his god. It is utterly ridiculous. But as ridiculous as it may be, I know the feeling because each time I sit down to write, there are conflicting voices.
The first voice is, as near as I can understand, the voice of the Lord, calling me to use my gifts, my voice, and my proverbial pen to call my brothers and sisters back into step. I feel the commission to comfort with the word that God is for us. I feel useful in bringing the spiritual realities I have sat with into the everyday world I am learning to live in. When I obey this voice, I feel grateful, fulfilled, and humbled. But I have to say that this is not the only voice.
There is another voice that speaks to me as I sit in front of an empty document, waiting for my daily bread of words. This is the voice that tells me to make a name for myself. It is the same voice I know when I am waiting tables, convincing me that my measure is weighed in tip percentage. It is the same voice I know when I crawl under the car and put a wrench to stubborn bolts, preaching to me a fluctuating self-worth dependent upon the success of the work of that day. It is the same voice I have known in arguments with those I love the most, testifying to me the necessity of being found in the right.
Whatever I put my hand to has the potential and sad history of obedience to the latter voice. We all know the emptiness of making a good name for ourselves, as well as the heartbreak of making a bad name for ourselves.
So I sit today and pray that my words are useful. I pray that my name is forgotten. I pray that, in the words of John the Apostle, I would become less and Christ would become more. I pray in the words of St. Francis that Christ would be on the lips of all who speak of me.
And in the words of Moses, I pray that the work of my hands would be worthwhile.