On Being Relevant

In recent years I have discovered something about myself, as a writer and also simply as a person – I have something to say.

I have come to think of myself as a stargazer, one who looks out into the night sky of everyday life and sees beauty, directions, even constellations, tracing dot-to-dot pictures in what first seemed to be randomness.  Some people look at life as a beautiful, haphazard mess like a piece of modern art…or a horrible chaos, for the more pessimistic out there.  But I see constant connections and imagery, a symphony, a tapestry where all the different parts are brought together into a beautiful whole.

Perhaps it’s because I’m a writer and all of life is a story to me, full of symbolism and subtle plot arcs.  Maybe my deep yearning for harmony and certainty drives me to find meaning.  But regardless of why I see the world the way I do, I increasingly find I cannot see the sense and beauty in God’s universe and providence and not speak out about it.

And yet, there is always a voice, standing up to oppose me if I dare open my mouth.

You’re so young.  What makes you think you would say anything worth hearing?

How dare you try to comfort someone suffering?  You can’t possibly know what they’re going through or have anything useful to say to them.

What insight could you possibly have?  You’re not qualified to talk about that in the first place.

What could you know about romance or finding a spouse?  You had a perfect, tidy little love story.  Nobody else’s life is like that.

You’re very blessed, honey.  It’s so cute when you try to talk about real life problems, but you really have no idea.

That’s easy for YOU to say.

Keep it to yourself.

Just keep your mouth shut.

Most of the time this whisper comes from the back of my own mind, my insecurity, my fear of man.  But sometimes it comes from other people…criticisms mainly aimed at the perceived ease of my life.

The first time I heard this kind of logic from another person, it cut deep.  I had attempted sharing my thoughts on a fairly common part of Christian living, and in response was told I had an easy life, I was sheltered, and therefore I had nothing relevant to say on the issue.

Certainly, I am not an expert in anything, and there is a time to simply hold one’s tongue and listen to those who are wiser.  It was not unjust of this person to suggest that I might be talking outside my realm of experience.

But because of the way the rebuke was phrased, that judgment on my life meant so much more.

It told me: Your life is too simple and happy for your words to have any weight.  Your thoughts have no value.  Your outlook, your unique human perspective on life, is worthless.  It will never mean anything to anyone except you.

I cried out to God.  Why did He make me a writer and yet give me a life that apparently rendered me irrelevant?  What was my value in His church, in His world?  Was I worthless?  Did I even matter to Him?  Could I never bless anyone else with my talents and thoughts?

Fear gripped me.  Perhaps all these “blessings” I praised God for all my life were really curses, blinding me to real Christian life, making me ignorant, stupid, a second-class citizen of the kingdom of God.

Eventually, the Holy Spirit breathed comfort into my heart.  He reminded me that His plan for my life is perfect and every member of His church is there for a reason, given their gifts and talents for a purpose that He, in His infinite wisdom, knows best.  He meant me to be a writer for a reason!  All these fears were only the taunts of Satan.

After some time, He also showed me that Being Relevant was an idol in my heart.  I wanted to be noticed, admired, important, for what I had to say.  I badly wanted to matter.  That was pride.

More important than being relevant to others, I realized, is knowing what God is telling me, and whether I am listening to Him.

I looked at my life with that question.  “What is God telling me in all this?”

And I was undone with gratitude, because the answer was so clear.  He loves me!  He cares about me.  I am precious in His sight and He delights to bless His children.

I believe that is as true for every Christian as for me, no matter how hard or “easy” our individual lives are.  He loved each of us so much that He paid for our souls with the precious blood of His beloved Son.  Will anything He does in our lives be anything less than merciful?  It is all grace.

I could end this post here.  It was a balm to my soul to be reminded of what truly matters.  But this is a topic that keeps festering in my mind.  I have something to say.

Each Life Is Unique

“Everyone’s special, Dash.”

“Which is another way of saying no one is.”

— The Incredibles

Perhaps it’s all true – what those voices in my head and other people tell me.  Maybe I really don’t know.  Yes, I had an amazing childhood.  Yes, I got married to my true love at 19 and I’m living my lifelong ambition of being a young wife with a growing brood of children, writing stories on the side.  No, I’ve never experienced infertility.  No, I’ve never had depression.  I don’t know what it’s like to be a single mom, or have cancer, or scrape by on too little money to buy my children enough food.  I’ve never lost a close relative to death.

Yes, compared to some others’ lives, mine has been “easy” (so far).  But what is this, a competition?

I can be no one but myself.  I can only look at the world through these two eyes God gave me, and no one else’s.  The best I can do is empathize and strive to understand others’ lives and perspectives.

Isn’t this true of everyone?

Christians, are we going to let that stop us from exhorting one another?  Is truth about God and His world negated because it comes to us from someone who hasn’t walked in our shoes?  Are we going to tune everyone out except the select few we can relate to as closely as possible?

Through that trial of feeling “worthless”, God showed me I am also guilty of picking and choosing that way, many times.

“Same church denomination as me?  Check.  Same age range as me?  Check.  Same gender as me?  Check.  Same life situation as me?  Check.  Same standards as me?  Check.  Okay, I guess you’re cleared to speak to my heart.  Blow me away with your unexpected insights!”

Or conversely:

“Oh.  You don’t share my exact doctrines.  Oh, you are so much younger than I am (or so much older); you’re from a different generation entirely.  You don’t understand me.  Your life is so different from mine.  You can’t have anything to say about the troubles I face or the struggles I’m enduring in my unique life.  Oh, your standards are so different from mine, I won’t agree with anything you say so it must not be true.  You aren’t relevant to me.”

Isn’t this another facet of the postmodern lie, “What’s true for you is true for you, but it isn’t true for me”?

Truth is always relevant.

Can’t God use us, any of us?  He can open our eyes to see truth and beauty and share it with others, regardless of where He’s brought us from or where He’s taking us.  He speaks to each of us through our lives.  Each of us has a unique perspective, a unique story to tell.  We cannot afford to write one another off because our lives and outlooks are different.

Sure, we all make mistakes and sometimes say things that are untrue, so we can’t accept everything people say without evaluation, but if someone truly knows the Lord, He is revealing Himself and His perfect truth to them, bit by bit, day by day.  There is a strong Thread that binds us all together…or rather, a Vine, in which we are all branches.

I have something to say.

If you are a fellow believer in Christ, especially if you are a writer struggling to understand if you are relevant to the world, please listen to me.

Your life, no matter how hard or easy, is perfect in God’s eyes, because He has designed it.  Your story matters.  You aren’t a pawn on a board; you are a valuable part of His plan and He put you here and gave you your skills and unique perspective for a reason.  (Have you ever thought about how we are the “first fruits” of the New Heavens and the New Earth, the very first pieces of the glorious eternity He is building, dawning into this falling-apart world like new stars?)

Don’t be afraid to share truth.  Don’t be afraid to glorify God’s name for what He has done in your life and shown you through your experiences.  Stop worrying about whether you’ve “lived enough” to write fiction.  Tell us your stories!  Share your thoughts!  I, for one, want to hear them.

Perhaps my personal outlook on life is an odd or limited one.  That’s okay.  That doesn’t make my life less true, less real, or less valuable to the Lord.

I will not stop stargazing.  I will not stop gaping at the awe and beauty of God and the fantastic story He is writing through all of our lives, this tapestry He is weaving, this symphony with a glorious main theme – Christ crucified for sinners.

This statement is true, that I cannot truly live anyone else’s life, only my own (and only God has control over my life).  Beyond empathy and striving to understand, I have never truly seen the world through anyone else’s eyes.

But nobody else has seen the world through my eyes either.

And nobody will, unless I open my mouth.

*

“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.  To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” – 1 Corinthians 12:4-7 (ESV)

Have you ever been told or thought that you are disqualified from reaching out to others, or that your writing won’t be relevant? Why?

Photo credits: freedigitalphotos.net

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13 Comments

  1. netraptor001

     /  March 29, 2014

    Somebody said that to you? How mean! So what you haven’t had any “super hardships”. There’s nothing wrong with having a wonderful life! Trials will come. The other day, when you never even got a shower? That was a trial. God tests you where you are. I’m living a life similar to yours–all my siblings are–and our saying is that being a Christian is like cheating at life. We have such a lack of heartache compared to our peers. A God-centered life is a quiet life, and there’s no shame in that!

    Reply
  2. netraptor001

     /  March 29, 2014

    “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.” – 1 Timothy 4:12

    Reply
  3. I think it’s terrible too! And you are very blessed. 🙂

    Reply
    • Now, now, the last thing I want is a bunch of people circling around me and sympathizing! 😉 It’s over, I’ve moved on, and what’s left is fantastic lessons that I hope are beneficial to more than only me! 🙂

      Reply
  4. As writers it is less important that we actually experience the things we write about and more important that we are observant. God has given us the talent to see things that others do not, to see things in different ways, to think outside the box. We can offer different perspectives on life experiences NOT because we have “been there, done that” but rather because we are sensitive enough to be able to recognize and feel things others have gone through. We can digest it and then regurgitate it into a story that reveals a little about us as well as a different perspective of the world.

    Reply
  5. Your voice is always relevant. Your words, experiences, perceptions and perspectives are valid, worthy and insightful.
    I grew up with this issue and in some ways, still encounter it as a mother, especially when it comes to safety, health and discipline.
    As the youngest in my family, the “baby”, the sheltered one, the home schooled one, the girl with two parents, the girl with a stay at home mom, the girl who had voice lessons and piano lessons, who could sing and had friends, was never on welfare, was never abused… No one thought my perspective was worth much, because I didn’t have any experience with what was troubling them.
    Even as they laughed at me for not having any experience or being in that “in crowd” of victims (some- actual victims, not just an entitled attitude)… they each would come to ME before all others, for support.
    Why is that?
    The thing is- I could see things from a different vantage point because I had never been in that situation. I could see things from an unbiased and loving perspective and help people find solutions to their problems through unattached and uncomplicated processes because I could see things without the bias of someone who had lived through it.
    I was their compass in the forest when all they could see were trees.

    We are all relevant and even though I have never had your blessed experiences, I don’t assume you’ve never known hardships of your own and it absolutely does NOT make your perspectives less true, real or important.
    Those who want to trivialize someone else’s challenges also typically magnify their own in the same sentence. “You could never understand this pain because I lived through it and you’re just so much better off you can’t understand”. This is your clue – when you hear that sort of talk about how “I had it so much worse than you did, your opinion doesn’t matter”, those people are suffering deeply from a feeling of not being loved, recognized or validated in their own lives.
    They suffer from jealousy. The kind of jealousy that makes one question their faith because they cannot understand why they had it so rough and yet, somehow- YOU were spared. It’s unfair. They see you, and see a gross imbalance in the cosmic design and become confused. What did they ever do to God to deserve the horrors they experience, when someone right next to them has had such a beautiful life?
    I know it’s hard… but I think it’s important for us to realize this, to share our understanding of it and remember that compassion and emulating that Divine love in all we do because truly, THAT is the only salve for all injuries.
    Don’t allow those folks, or even your own self-doubt, to silence your voice and to keep you from stargazing. All it means, is some people need a little more love and that’s okay- because we have empathy, love and compassion to spare, where they are so lacking.

    Maybe that is our purpose.

    Reply
    • Wow, what a great insight! I never considered before that there was actually *added value* in my perspective specifically BECAUSE it’s unbiased and not blinded by sadness or pain! I have experienced exactly what you describe – friends DO come to me wanting help or advice even though I feel unqualified to help. And I’ve often wondered why God gave me so many friends who are hurting and yet has given me an “easy” life so I “can’t relate” to them. But maybe being unbiased is a gift and a blessing for that very purpose! 🙂

      Reply
  6. Such a beautiful post! Thanks for sharing! Just want to add, for those of us who have come from unhealthy backgrounds, we need to know what IS healthy, to see examples of how to live it out. I was once told that a drowning person can’t help another person drowning, or they’ll both drown.

    Reply
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