During my writing sabbatical, I began to struggle with the reality that most of what I was writing about…or wanted to write about…was stuff I was seeing in the lives of people I love and share life with.
This was really nothing new. For years, I have written about people I know and the stories of their personal journeys. It has always been pretty easy for me to hide their identities and change the details enough to protect them, while still passing on critique, life lessons, or a challenge to address what’s wrong.
But that had gotten increasingly more difficult.
Honestly, it’s easy for someone to criticize the actions or attitudes of another, when you don’t really know who they are. When they are at an arm’s distance. When they are on the other side of a computer monitor. When they sit in an ivory tower or underneath a freeway overpass.
When they have no names, they aren’t real people.
It can be even more complicated for pastors. I follow a number of high-profile christian types who constantly come out with both barrels loaded, criticizing and judging all “types” of people who claim to follow Jesus. They find fault with church leadership and rail against different theologies. They condemn certain behaviors, while praising those they see as superior. They write boldly to the anonymous, generalized “other”
And they do it from pulpits with moats of separation. They do it from insulated board rooms and the protective confines of inner circles.
But I can’t hide like that. I walk with people who sin just like I do. I share meals and laughter and shortcomings with people I call friends. I see the failures of people whose names I know and paths I share and messes I wade into. I see myself in them. As a pastor, I can’t play dumb to what I see. I can’t ignore what is wrong and needs to be fixed. I can’t turn a blind eye. I’m a card-carrying people helper.
But a blog or a post from the safety of my recliner and the protection of a screen is not the place to do it. And that’s where I have found myself the past year…fighting the urge to call out the unhealthy and damaging behaviors of the people I love from this unfiltered internet stage. So I experienced a sort of paralysis.
And I think it was a good thing.
So I am now ready to move forward and write again. Most sin is common to all. The only difference is degree. I’ll continue to work hard to protect the identities of my friends, while confronting those things that damage us, separate us, and undercut the grace of God.
But it sure would be a lot easier to live insulated from real friendship and calloused to the effect of my words on others.
On second thought, pastors really shouldn’t blog.