One Year Ago

One year ago — it seems like so little time has passed. It was one year ago today that, on a whim, I signed up at Blogger and started this weblog. I remember thinking, “What in the hell am I doing, adding one more thing to my day, another burden of impulsive desire and unrealistic optimism frustrated by the hard limit of a 24-hour day?” Well, it probably wasn’t phrased exactly that way, but you get the drift. But the price was right (is it really free if it steals hours from your day?), and it seemed like an outlet for a lot of ideas I’d had rattling about in my brain for a long, long time.

I’ve kept personal journals off and on over the years — sometimes during times when life was difficult, when the loneliness was almost unbearable and God seemed far, sometimes when God was close enough to feel His breath and the sense of joy and awe inexplicably beautiful. But mostly my life is mundane, the routines of sluggish dawns, mindless commutes, long days, late hours, family responsibilities and turmoil — the stuff even the most blessed of us experience, the stuff which sustains us while it deadens us. And in the mundane there is no passion to write, and years passed between entries. And then the darkness — when years passed without God, without relationships, without hope, with no love to give. Random, frantic, cryptic entries dot the pages, giving only the faintest clue to the emptiness within, the cries to God like stones thrown in a canyon, without sound or reaction as they reach their bottom.

Then grace: that most surprising of turns, when everything you deserve does not happen and every gift you receive you do not deserve. It changes a man, breaks his pride, gives him a new heart and a new eye, takes a life once narrowing to a spider’s thread and broadens it in ways I could not, and cannot yet, imagine. Years of healing in a day, a lifetime of healing in a few years. It is a gift so great that it cannot be hoarded, for hoarding destroys the gift: it must be shared. And so, writing — the journal returns to life in a new medium, for a new purpose. At once it is the dread of a responsibility taken on, and the pleasure of crafting something of my own, yet not of my own.

I’ve long hated writing. Drawn to the logic, predictability, and safety of hard science, writing seemed impossibly difficult, each word a chore, leaden phrases laboriously typed, two struggling fingers on keys late at night, mere hours before deadline. And writing forced you to expose your soul, if you wrote with any passion — a terrifying transparency, far more dangerous than math proofs or mixing toxic chemicals behind safety goggles in sterile laboratories.

Then things changed–slowly, imperceptibly, over many years. The tool which had furrowed little in the hard soil of a frightened soul began to find utility. The earth seemed softer, perhaps because the instrument acquired purpose other than labor for labor’s sake, and skills acquired by purposeful repetition hardened the hands and made efforts more fruitful. How many gifts do we have, buried under a hardened armor, awaiting the gracious trauma of a shattered shell? One can only imagine — one fears to imagine.

I have always been a man of few words, preferring the quick quip to the thoughtful response — the right words always coming hours or days after the exchange. But writing: aahhh, there is a way to express your heart, to pour out your soul. The beauty of words, sometimes carefully chosen, sometimes flowing effortlessly from a source unseen, pounding out their rhythm and cadence, sometimes soft, sometimes stirring. Like music, they penetrate the spirit with power, deep speaking to deep.

I have learned to love great writers, and love to learn from them, in my own stumbling steps to imitate and emulate. And the web! Who could have imagined that a medium so poorly suited to reading — reading a book on computer an unimaginable chore — could prove so ideal for the comment, the essay, the quiet reflection, the fiery retort? Fascinating to see this medium evolve in ways never imagined — fascinating even more so to watch society, culture, country, and world change as a result. It is not the medium which transforms the world, but the voices of those rarely heard before. “For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned” — sobering caution indeed from Him whose followers called “the Word made flesh,” yet at once rich with excitement and possibility.

So I celebrate one year as a blogger — a detestable term, that, more apt to describe a savior for the sanitation department than a writer. But perhaps it is more accurate than I know. I am grateful to have this vehicle for catharsis, to formulate and organize thoughts otherwise scattered and incomplete. And I am grateful to those who have taken the time to read, and hope that in some small way you have been blessed, as I have been.

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