No One is an Expert

I have written hundreds of thousands of words on Sayable (or her predecessor) since 2001 and I have never experienced the level of word-fatique I feel today. I lay in bed this morning, the sunlight splitting our curtains in two, and thought of all the things I want to do today and one I thought I should: write.

A week ago I handed in nearly 60,000 words to my publisher on human touch. Almost every working hour of my last four months have been spent on this manuscript and I wish I was more confident in its message. I believe in its message, but as I told a friend who works for my publisher, “I feel like I know less about this than when I started.” Maybe that’s how it is for every author. It’s not until we begin to plumb the depths that we realize how deep the depths go and how infinite their complexity. If human touch is my Everest, I’ve barely deplaned in the Kathmandu airport. My aim was to make readers think about touch, but I fear most of us just want the distilled stuff: give us the how-tos and to-dos, leave thinking for the thought-leaders. But my brain hurts because all I’ve done for months is think.

And I’m tired.

Abraham Heschel wrote, “If you work with your hands, Sabbath with your mind. If you work with your mind, Sabbath with your hands,” and my mind is spent. So yesterday I pulled the 1980s knobs off our 1980s vanity in our guest bathroom, sanded it down, and painted it. Then I pulled out a handsaw and a level and cut some beadboard to size. Then I broke our brand-new utility knife (I think) and learned how to use a caulking gun and liquid nails. We’re doing a full renovation of our master bathroom and I’ll leave those things to the experts, but I can work the YouTube tutorials and figure my way around a bunch of tools for the guest bathroom. I think. I really have no idea what I’m doing but I’m still going to try.

There’s been a lot of chatter on Twitter recently about the revival of the blog and it reminds me of how a few years ago I encouraged women to shut their blogs down. I think I still believe there is a glut of information out there and not all are called by God to write or tell their story. Most aren’t. God doesn’t give us our stories so we can tell them. He gives us them so we can see Him and tell about Him. But in an age where “telling our truth” is the thing, one must find a place to tell it to as many as possible. Hence, blogs.

I’m glad for the conversation and the encouragement to rein in the desire to be published on the Big Name Sites; I’m glad for the encouragement to write and post on the same day (I have always done this on Sayable and while it’s meant eating my words more often than not, it’s also meant my salvation has been worked out in real time, not in some happy-clappy “I used to be, but now…” testimony and three point homily.); but also glad for the encouragement to refrain from hot-takes and reactionary posts; I’m glad for the encouragement toward quiet faithfulness in unseen spaces, the exercise of scales and grammar and theology. I hope and pray it leads to better writing across the Christian publishing world and not just bigger celebrity.

I know all these things seem a bit disparate. Maybe they are. I’ve just been thinking this morning about how none of us are experts in anything, not really. Even the ones who seem to be are still learning. Everyone is selling something and to sell it compellingly, most people pretend to be good at it. But we’re not. Not really. Not all of us. Not even most of us. Most of us are YouTubing DIY projects (to watch videos made by people still learning). Most of us are reading books written by people who wish they had said something differently or better or not at all. Most bloggers, the ones who don’t quit when the page views are slim or the comments get nasty, are just putting one foot in front of another in the long slog toward someday.

I don’t know. Maybe you’re scrolling through something today, looking for the experts. Maybe you’re the one people think is the expert. Maybe you’re pretending or maybe you believe you’re as great as your press. I don’t know. I’ve watched a lot of friends in ministry fall in the past few years and more than anything it makes me just beg God, “Let me decrease. Make me an expert in my own weakness and a student of your great glory. Help me to never be deceived by the promise of god-like-ness that everyone offers me with their four steps to everything.”

My brain still hurts so I’m going to go paint the palest pink I could find on our bathroom walls. Because you never know until you try.

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