// authenticity

Deep breath. It’s a Starbucks. The familiar buzz of conversation, tatty sofas with people lost in thought or discussion sat on them, walls in comforting shades of deep red and olive green with tiny black and white photos placed artistically. There’s a stack of papers (because there’s always a stack of papers these days) and my phone is blinking steadily to tell me that I have new messages, old friends trying to organise a trip to a mutual friend’s wedding in a few months.

I have a pen in my hand, and nothing to say.

When I started out writing this blog, it seemed like there were stories to tell. But I haven’t really told any story but my own, giving you these fractured glimpses into what it is like to be an average Christian, troubled by doubts and confusion, in the hope that their progression might somehow reveal something of God.

Gradually, over time, the voice of God has become muffled and indistinct, lost among the haze of voices here among the comfortable confines of this coffee shop, when He used to speak with such clarity and power, bringing words of life to this thirsty soul. I have spent less time in His word and out in His world, and more time trying to express the things for which there are no words, and it is increasingly noticeable.

The other day a friend of mine pointed me in the direction of another blogger, who I’d heard about but never read. This individual had written a post about certain issues that have been going on at the church that I attend, and as a result around 500 people had read the post in a day. The comments then had to be moderated, but the author proceeded to post the ones that praised the courage of their post, spoke about its boldness and willingness to stand out from the crowd.

I read it all with a growing sense of unease. It read like it was a lone prophetic voice, crying in the middle of a wilderness. Like there was oppression on all sides, and somebody had to stand up for what was good or there was no hope. It was blunt and brutal, and saw issues in stark shades of black and white. It was a typical blog persona, in short.

Idealistic. Nakedly political.

What made me most uneasy was how much it reminded me of myself.

When I started out, I never came to a coffee shop in order to try and change the world, just to find some corner of it that I could call my own. I don’t know that blogs should be about politics or points-scoring, as that just seems to me to be aggressive, overly combative. But recently I’ve been acting otherwise, living like I am a man with a message, something worth hearing, and it makes me just the same – another voice crying out, “listen to me”.

I am not a prophetic voice crying out in the desert, just a bewildered individual trying to articulate some of the struggles that twentysomething Christians face in the twenty-first century. And for that reason I feel like I owe you an apology. I have not been authentic recently, I have been trying to be something that I am not; a guide, or a politician, or a prophet, and that is not who I am. So much of writing seems to be self-promotion anyway, and now I am unemployed, it felt like I needed to develop a more marketable persona, something that was easier to sell.

But frankly, it’s not working – as life tends not to when I pretend to be something that I’m not.

I want to write for me again, and by extension for God – on this blog, at least. I used to be okay with being unimpressive and honest but for some reason, lately, I am less okay with that. I have become insecure, self-conscious when I write. That is not a good thing, and it is a sign that I am trying to maintain an illusion that I cannot sustain, rather than writing in faith.

I am going to try to stop faking it, in the hope that I will not end up chasing numbers or recognition, and will not simply become somebody shouting loudly about his own merits in the already overcrowded marketplace. If that makes me a less marketable commodity, then so be it. This was never about being marketable anyway.

A couple of days ago, the author Anne Jackson posted a beautiful blog, her reflections on the paintings of Vincent Van Gogh and the parallels with her writing causing her to ask of her own posts, “will someone read them one day and think of the soul of the girl behind them and be amazed? In tears?”

Van Gogh bared his soul on a canvas even when nobody paid the slightest bit of attention to his work, and he did it for himself. And when you look at his canvases today, there is an honesty and personality in his work that shines through, reflecting something of the truth of who Vincent Van Gogh really was. What Anne Jackson recognised is that it is that honesty that carries through the ages – you can tell that there is authenticity in his work, and that is why it has lasted. That is an admirable quality in a transient age.

Better to write from the soul than to write from cynicism, I think.

Even if it means that in the end nobody knows my name.

    • Tom
    • September 30th, 2010

    I need to comment further on this, as the blogger i refer to subsequently amended their posts and reacted graciously in our interaction.

    There was an element of mean-spiritedness in this post, an implicit desire to correct something i thought was damaging by resolving to be different. It’s a lesson that i’m glad to have learned and i wouldn’t have learned it if not for this other individual, but it also leaves me with a dilemma:

    Either i remove this post or the offending segments, making myself look better, or i leave it as it is and apologise. In this case, authenticity is not pretty. But I am going to leave it in the form it currently stands, as a record of how i really think and my own imperfections. However, it should be said that people can change, and i am a flawed individual – and so having your thoughts in print like this can invariably be more hurtful than intended. If that has been the case, i can only apologise.

    We are all learning lessons from this.

  1. Worship Music should sound like this. Should it? Like this post? Really? Questions all Christian bloggers need to ask themselves.

    We wanted to contact you on an unrelated matter, so I will send you an FB message,

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