When I was in kindergarten I learned to write in pencil, one of those thick pencils that are easy to hold when your fine motor skills aren’t fully developed. I was given big paper with the dashed line between the two solid ones to help guide the shape of my letters. And if all else failed, if I couldn’t follow the dotted line, my trusty pink eraser was there telling me that if I messed up, I would survive, correct it, and move on.
In first grade, that little dash line went away. The solid lines started to close in on one another. The pencil got smaller as did the space I had to write in and the expectation for perfectly proportioned letters increased. Second and third grade brought cursive. The same letters took on new forms. The instrument of choice in middle school was a pen. A pen said I could write whatever I wanted, but I had to make sure I knew what that was, because if I messed up, I had to start all over. Face it. Everyone would know I messed up if I used white out. Whatever I chose to say, I had to say it boldly. Firmly. There was no going back.
Now I’m staring at a blinking cursor. I’m typing on a keyboard with three keys that will delete what I just wrote, forever. It’s like every single blink is saying, Are you sure? Maybe you should try that again, without so many commas and adjectives this time. I write, edit, write more, delete, add a couple more words, backspace, backspace, backspace. And I get stuck. Nothing flows like I’d like it to. I check my email one more time and read a few Facebook status updates, then go back and find that blinking cursor in the exact same spot. This time I don’t type anything at all.
When I started my relationship with God, it was simple and fearless. I didn’t care what anyone thought. I served out of abundance and because I loved Him. I didn’t question my motives or theology; I did what I did out of pure joy. I read my Bible because I wanted to. I worshiped because I felt like it. There were big lines, big pencils, dotted lines and thrilling, endless possibilities.
At some point I graduated. I wanted cursive and smaller lines. I questioned what I knew. I fixated on my mistakes. I worried about how people perceived me. I questioned whether I really understood Christ or if I knew anything at all. I didn’t have the faith that I could fail and survive anymore. I was terrified to make a mistake. I spent my life desperately trying to dip myself in white out, hoping to hide any mistake I could from public view.
I find myself now in the blinking cursor stage of life. Fixated. Analyzing. Reanalyzing. Questioning. Doubting. Re-questioning. Philosophizing. Am I missing it all together? Am I forgetting to just write something down already?
The lowest grades I ever got in school were in penmanship, but even if my handwriting is terrible, I can write. And maybe that’s it. I’m going to pick up my pencil again. I’m going to use the big lines and the dashed ones too. I’m not going to worry if I succeed or not. I’m going to free myself of the lie that I cannot survive failure. I will never be perfect. I will never be ready. But I’m starting to think God would be more glorified if I just put something – anything – down on the paper. Even if I’m outside of the lines now and again, at least I will have something to show for all this effort.
I’m going to embrace those first things and let go of the unneeded complexity. I’m going to stop questioning my calling and begin to let go of other people’s expectations. I’m going to care less about what culture or Christians would think or say, and focus on being faithful to Him. I’m going to do something. And then tomorrow, I’m going to start over again and do something else.