This afternoon, I’m sitting on my bed after attempting to lay down and take a nap.  I experienced thought vomit immediately upon closing my eyes and realized that it was finally time to write my first non-introductory post on this blog. I keep wondering what this blog will turn into. Do I want it to be a place where I write about my life and things going on? Will it be a collection of thoughts and musings on my experiences? Or do I want to focus on writing for others – writing about particular topics or themes that appeal to people who read blogs in general? Maybe it’s a question of who I want to read my blog. It’s also a question of what I want the writing to do. Every time I write a blog post, I look back at it the next day and think, “Wow, why would anyone be interested in reading this? It’s all about YOU.”

After writing a bit of creative nonfiction and discussing it in theory in a wonderful class I took last semester, I think I’m more comfortable with the idea. Personal writing is effective and evocative and often connects more with readers than other kinds of creative nonfiction. Maybe it’s just the idea of being vulnerable that makes me want to run away. Letting people read the thoughts that might be embarrassing in a month but that I’m dealing with right now.

Perhaps you’ve seen this quote all over the place, or perhaps this is the first time but Phillip Lopate (who put together one of the essay collections we looked at last semester) says, “The trick is to realize that one is not important, except insofar as one’s example can serve to elucidate a more widespread human trait and make readers feel a little less lonely and freakish.” The same thing happens when I read about people with the same personality type as me. I feel like there are really people out there like me, who think the same way and have the same weaknesses and strengths and quirks. Writing has always done that for me. Stories are mysterious, beautiful things. Maybe I won’t always be telling cool stories, but everything I write is part of my story. And maybe will also apply to yours. I hope so.

For the past week or so, I’ve been thinking about a variety of things without writing much.

From last week: “I really want to write…but there don’t seem to be enough thoughts for once in my life. I’m realizing there isn’t anything interesting enough going on in my brain to want to write about right now…”

Please bear with my stream of consciousness processing.

I am still working on liking myself. That is such a strange concept. I think I’ve written about it before. People always say that you have to love yourself before you can love others. And that no one will love you if you don’t love yourself. For me, that doesn’t make sense unless you realize where God fits into that equation. You have to realize that God loves you, and learn to see yourself and others through His eyes, with the same kind of love. I used to try to love myself and realize that I’ll always disappoint myself. I’m never fully satisfied with whatever I do. I can always be improving in some way. Nothing I do is ever perfect, so I can always do better. But I will never do anything perfectly. I’ll never have perfectly clear skin or perfectly sculpted abs or perfectly shiny hair or perfectly eloquent words or perfect organizational skills or perfectly healthy food or perfect grades or perfect faith. I spend a lot of time pointing out things about myself in a degrading way. Not even really criticizing or punishing myself. Just noting things that weren’t perfect. Noticing them all at once.

“Look, you’re breaking out.”
“Look at the junk you ate today.”
“Look, do you really want to wear those shorts?”
“Look how badly you used your time today.”
“Look, you didn’t get an A+ on that.”
“Look, you didn’t pray or read the Bible today.”

And this is how I lose my own love. It was a recent realization that my love for myself is conditional. But God’s love is not. He’s not going to cast me aside because I’m not perfect. That’s the whole point. That’s what I believe. But if I really believe that, I should be able to see myself that way. And that will enable me to see others that way. Because when I hold myself to such unattainable standards, I inevitably start to do it to other people. Not nearly as severely, because I am consciously always trying to love people and see the good things about them. But it’s there.

God LOVES me. He loves human beings. How crazy is that? It doesn’t make sense. It’s unconditional. It’s so much grace. Sometimes I fall into the trap of thinking that, if I don’t do certain things, people will stop being friends with me. If I haven’t heard from someone in awhile, it’s probably not because they don’t want to talk to me anymore. It’s probably because we’ve both been busy. But that translates. If I haven’t talked to God in awhile, I think, “Oh, no. What if he doesn’t love me anymore?” Not in those words really, but that’s the feeling that courses through me. The truth is, God is always happy to hear from his children.

At church last Sunday, I was preparing to take communion, bowing my head to pray as the music started. I usually pray – with both repentance and thankfulness – before I go to the table. After I sit down again, I pray again. I didn’t realize until that day that this routine seemed necessary. I felt the person sitting next to me get up immediately when communion began, and somehow in that instant I realized that, even though I’m praying for good reasons, God doesn’t need that routine. I need to repent, and I need to come in an attitude of humility and brokenness. But my act of repentance doesn’t flip the switch of forgiveness.

I know this. I know that nothing I do can merit my salvation. But somehow we humans tend to forget these fundamental things. I can come to the table immediately. I can be confident in my standing with God. He still loves me. He still loves me this week as much as He loved me last week. Nothing that I may have done made it impossible for Him to keep loving me. I know I’ve essentially said the same thing over and over…but does it ever get less amazing?

I have many more notes that I’d love to write about, but I don’t have all day, and neither do you. And I will need things to write about later…I was a little worried I might run out of things to say…but then I remembered that I am me, and I never stop thinking about things. So that isn’t likely to happen.

Thanks for reading.

Oh, also! The picture of the ocean! It’s from Panama City Beach, where I went a couple weeks ago with my campus ministry, RUF, for our summer conference. It was beautiful. Obviously.