Christians who are digital natives will, quite possibly, encounter two ministries of the Word each week–the Sunday sermon and Christian blogs.
A bad sermon tells you what you should do. It lays down the law. Your shoulders hunch when you hear you should give more to their pet projects, pray more, read your Bible more, love more. More, more, more.
* * *
Now, who in their right minds, would come to blogs to be told what they should do? Not I.
Like everyone else, I know what to do, you see. The trouble isthe doing of it. As Portia says in The Merchant of Venice
If to do were as easy as to know what were good to
do, chapels had been churches and poor men’s
cottages princes’ palaces. I can easier teach
twenty what were good to be done, than be one of the
twenty to follow mine own teaching.
* * *
The effective Christian blogger ministers the word, but without overt preaching. She has to.
She does not have the preacher’s advantages: the captive audience, the theology degree, the automatic respect.
And so, she must be winsome. Like the poet of old who beginneth not with obscure definitions, but cometh to you with words set in delightful proportion–and with a tale forsooth he cometh unto you, with a tale which holdeth children from play, and old men from the chimney corner (Sir Philip Sidney. Apology for Poetry).
While our intention might be to bless, trust is not instantly handed to us. Yeats wishes for his daughter,
“In courtesy I’d have her chiefly learned;
Hearts are not had as a gift but hearts are earned.”
So too for the blogger: trust is not had as a gift, but trust is earned.
How? Paradoxically, by sharing our weaknesses, rather than our strengths.
A blogger could tell us of hours in prayer, scripture study, fasts, watchings, and we will feel tired, one more To Do.
But tell us how the Christian life really plays out: how you can snarl at those who delay you on your way to worship God on Sundays; how you can feel maddened by noise during your lovely quiet times; how you knew someone was gossiping at prayer request time but asked a curious question in the guise of concern; how you medicate yourself with chocolate rather than Scripture, because, frankly, it’s quicker. How you love Scripture and prayer, but sometimes find them boring; how you love Christ and love your children, but, frankly, find this whole Proverbs 31 business overrated!
And because we too have visited those shadowlands, we’ll laugh, and we’ll believe you.
And then, when you tell us of prayer, visions, revelations, high altitude glories, we’ll believe you too, because you have earned our trust when you told us of the muck and mud, the shame and breakthrough which are all part of the Christian life.
While the preacher shares the conclusions, the QED of the theorem of faith, the personal Christian blogger, the confessional blogger, shares the process—the falls, the slipping backward, the rare raptures.
* * *
Above all, she tells a story. A story unique in that no one–not the author, not the readers–no one but God himself, knows how it going to end. And as she tells it, she understands it better: the story of her own life.
And this story has multiple narratives, mirroring the four quadrants of human personality:
1. The things we know about ourselves, and everyone else knows.
2. The things we know about ourselves, but no one else guesses, and we would die rather than confess.
3. The things which are glaringly obvious to everyone else, but which we are oblivious to. Bloggers, despite themselves, make these dreadful revelations about themselves—unwittingly revealing their emotional contours, their prejudices, their fears, their secret patches of pride, shame and sensitivity.
Many personal blogs can be decoded by an alert reader. Anyone who chronicles the ongoing story of their personal or spiritual lives on the web makes these unconscious revelations, and must make peace with this.
4. The last quadrant, is the vast, deep submerged world of buried potential–the heights of love and nobility to which we are capable of rising; the depths to which we are capable of sinking; talents and abilities unguessed at, save by the Creator, who alone knows how it is all going to end, and, I like to think, reads the unspooling account of our spiritual and actual lives on our blogs with interest, tenderness, and not a little amusement!
(Edited archive post.)