The day my grandmother died, I started a list of details. An inventory of humdrum data to delineate the day, the particulars of a grief observed.
The stockings lay limp by the mantle, the bounty already uprooted. A Christmas day in the mid-afternoon.
We were huddled on the couch, my brothers and I, watching the Motorcycle Diaries—to me a Christmas miracle that they had agreed to be burdened by subtitles—when we got the call.
The details rose up to my consciousness, as unstoppable as grief, as love.
I sat in the backseat on the passenger side.
I picked at a hangnail on my right thumb.
I held my mother’s hand as we walked down the hallway that smelled of urine and antiseptic.
Colored ball ornaments hung from the ceiling.
I couldn’t feel; could only record.
Above all else, I wanted to remember.
He is referring to an excerpt in Bill Buford’s Among the Thugs in which “Buford gets pummeled by Italian riot cops.” Instead of wishing it were over, or merely trying to get through the pain, Buford writes, “mainly I was thinking about the pain. It was unlike anything I had known and I wanted to remember it.”
That Christmas at the nursing home, the grief was unlike anything I had known and I wanted to remember it. Not my grandmother, per se. I’d already stockpiled a million and seven spaghetti-and-meatball-cooking-I-Love-Lucy-watching details about her in the months and years preceding her death. I wanted to remember that day, that pain, those particulars. So I could tell the story.
At the end of his post, Brendan writes, “when your life is given over to telling stories, this is the default approach to every situation. There’s always a little voice chirping in your ear, “Imagine how this will sound on the page.”
A writing mind is an observant mind; a mind hungry for the story.
There’s always another narrative to knit, another phrase to turn over like a butterscotch hard candy in your mouth, clanking against your teeth, spreading sweetness across your tongue.
The mundane begs to be immortalized in my words. The death of a grandmother brings life to my musings. I am a different person by the time the words spill from my lips. I am a new creation as I track details, grant new names, new life.
Almost a year ago to the day, God whispered to me, in the middle of a church service, to “write my love story.” It was a command to share my story, the story of God’s love for me. It was the motivation for this blog, but it was also a command to remember.
To remember the times I couldn’t step foot in a church. To remember the outrage I felt at injustice. To remember the first time I felt a real, a raw, a ragged hope begin to stir in my own honesty.
Writing is an act of remembering. Even more, it is a discipline of thankfulness.
The writing, the blogging, the sharing, is shaping me. It has shaped me—in good ways and bad.
When I want to write God off, blogging forces me to write God in. And that is good.
In writing I uncover details I’ve forgotten. I remember miracles. I marvel at the threads of goodness pointing to a good God woven through my life.
Writing can transform prayers of pleading into proclamations of praise.
But lately I’ve discovered a downside to writing. I’ve found that blogging has changed my prayers, what I’ve come to expect, what I’ve started to demand.
The whispers of God that I used to view as grace, grace, and more grace have become—like Buford recounted—nothing more than great story material. God gives me a revelation and I’m immediately thinking, “Imagine how this will sound on the page.”
I’ve been desperately wanting God to speak not because I legitimately want more of him, but because I want more to write. I want God to speak so I have something to say. So I sound smart. So I sound spiritual. So people don’t wonder why I didn’t post. So my blog metrics don’t tick down to just my mother, again.
It’s thoughts like these that make me want to nix it all. Tear down the blog. Rip up my journal. Cry out for forgiveness for manipulating God’s words for my own purposes.
I ask myself, For whose glory am I writing?
The heart check comes back inconclusive: Some days I write from pure gratitude that God would speak at all, that he would allow me to share, that he would use my words to speak to others. Other days I write from a selfish stance, greedy for my own glory.
I forget that it was God who prompted this blog in the first place. God who crafted me with a proclivity for details, with an instinct for recollection, with an unceasing desire to write to write to write until I see His face.
And so I write. And so I pray and ask forgiveness. And so I ask for God to speak. And, then, in the details, in the remembering, in the recounting, I want to give glory.
I want to write God in, for it is in God that I write.
Blogger friends, can you relate to this urge to mine every word, conversation, and prayer for good content? Do you think it’s still worth writing about God even if your motives are mixed? How do you stay centered on God’s glory?