I want to tell you a pretty story about Allume, because there is prettiness there — good things, very good things, rich experiences, community and fellowship and love. But that’s not my story. My story is ugly and embarrassing, but it’s the truth.
“These conferences are toxic for me,” I told my husband, sighing as we sat on the couch on Sunday night. He thought it was because I felt intimidated by all the well-known writers – the writers with the bigger platforms and more readers. The writers who sell more books than I ever will. He thought it was all related to the book.
“Well, that’s part of it,” I said to Brad.”But that’s not the whole story, that’s not the real story. It’s much worse than that.”
I told Brad the truth. The reason these conferences are so toxic for me is because they bring me face-to-face with my greatest temptation. And every time I come face-to-face with my greatest temptation, I succumb. I run straight into the arms of sin. Every. Single. Time.
I’ve stated it here before, and I’ll state it again: my greatest temptation and my greatest sin is the desire to be known by the important people – by the people I consider cool and relevant and popular. The in crowd.
It’s one thing to travel in the same social media circles as the in-crowd. But there is a distance offered by social media that cannot be avoided when you stand face-to-face in the same space, watching and listening and breathing in the same air.
The ugly, embarrassing truth is that I want to be known by the important people. I want to be invited in. And I put this need, this desire, ahead of God.
I know, I know, I know – all I really need is to be known and loved by God. All I really need is to be part of His inner circle. Nothing else matters. I know this. I hear you.
But friends, knowing this makes it all worse. Because I fail. I fail at this again and again. This is the absolute toughest part of being a Christian writer – because I know what I should believe, what I should think, how I should feel, the one and only One I should desire, and yet I still succumb to temptation. I still sin.
And I’m so, so tired of it.
I cried on the flight from the conference to Atlanta as the old man in the seat next to me snored. I turned my face toward the tiny window, looked out over the wing and wiped the tears with my fancy scarf. I cried as I walked off the jetbridge, and down the concourse and on the train that shuttled me to the next concourse and in the bathroom stall, with the door latched tight and my suitcase pressed against my knees and a wad of scratchy toilet paper in my hand.
I cried not only because my desire to be known felt so awful, but also because it felt so awful to keep succumbing to the same old sin.
I dried my eyes with the scratchy toilet paper, washed my hands and then walked down the concourse to terminal E, where I sat at the empty gate and talked to God in my head. What should I do, God? I implored. Should I quit? Should I leave Christian writing? Should I go back to my day job?
Because think about. If you are addicted to porn, you don’t willingly walk into a porn store, right? If you are addicted to alcohol, you don’t willing walk into a liquor store, right? So if I’m addicted to approval, to the desire to be known, should I put myself in the exact place where it is so easy for me to succumb to temptation?
I don’t know the answer. God isn’t saying right now.
But I do know this. When I finally pulled the mini-van to the curb in front of my house and walked across the lawn to where my three guys sat waiting for me on the front stoop, I felt something. As my boys wrapped their arms around me and my husband retrieved my suitcase from the car, and I walked into our the kitchen and saw my warm dinner set out on the kitchen counter and a freshly baked apple pie on the stove, I knew I was home, in my place, with the people who really, truly matter most.
And that, for the moment, was enough.
This isn’t the end of this battle for me. My husband looked me straight in the eye last night and said, “You will always, always struggle with this.” And he’s right. I will. This struggle is the thorn in my side. (Actually, I’m more like a prickly pear; I have many thorns. But that’s another blog post).
As Richard Rohr says, the pattern of redemption is “evil undone much more than evil ever perfectly avoided. It is disorder reconfigured in our hearts and minds much more than demanding any perfect order to our universe.” I believe this is true – the evil and disorder, the struggle, will always be there.
But I also believe that God is in this struggle, too– in this continual “undoing and reconfiguring.” He is here. He is in this with me, undoing, reconfiguring, re-transforming, again and again. He loves. He redeems. And God, dear friends, will always, always be enough.