What does public faith mean to you?
One of my favorite pastors, Tim Keller, describes it in this podcast as simply “telling people what has happened to you.”
That, in a nut shell, is my essential purpose for this creating this blog.
In this opening post I will share the details surrounding the beginning of my own personal journey towards a greater public faith: my effort to tell anyone who will listen what has happened to me, and how Jesus has shown up, and continues to show up, in my life.
And I will attempt to do so in a way consistent with the elements of an effective testimony identified by Keller: with “disarming transparency, Jesus simplicity, and no small amount of bravery.”
The birth of this blog
I’ve been toying with the idea of starting a blog for quite a while now. Like most introverts, I’ve got a lot going on inside this quiet persona, but my brain to mouth connection is tenuous at best, whereas writing has always been a natural way to articulate my deeper thoughts and feelings.
But I was stumped concerning what to write about.
As I pondered this question, I did a quick mental assessment of my life: inventorying various interests, identities, roles, etc. Let’s see:
- Wife and stay at home mom (SAHM) to two small boys age 1 and 4
- Enjoy making things and being crafty and creative
- Love binge reading epic fantasy books
- Have degrees in psychology and social work
- Introvert who loves understanding and deeply connecting with people
- Recovering perfectionist
- Follower of Christ
- Beginner minimalist
- Lifelong pastor’s kid just starting to get comfortable coming out of that particular closet
- My heart breaks for the poor, the outcast, the broken
snobbyrefined taste in movies and food
- Etc. etc.
Quick, cursory research on blogging informed me that in order to be successful, I needed to choose a topic that targeted a specific niche. It had to be something that excited me, generating multiple possibilities for posts under that theme.
As I identified potential topics associated with my various life roles or interests, I evaluated them in light of that criteria, and ultimately discarded them one after the other.
SAHM blog? Lets be real, I barely scrape through my days at home, living for that glorious time when the kids are in bed and I’m finally (somewhat) alone. Did I really want to spend whatever precious time I could carve out for writing recounting and reliving the day?? Goodness No! (Pete the Cat, anyone?).
The DIY blog quickly went out the window as well: crafting is an indulgence I’ve more or less abandoned at this point, having neither the time, nor the emotional stoicism to perpetually witness my precious creations (along with every other possession in our home) get ruthlessly and systematically destroyed by our wonderful boys.
Then, I was struck with a brilliant idea. BRILLIANT I say.
At God’s prompting, I was in the process of planning a small group for women struggling with a particular issue- an issue with which I had struggled in the past, and by God’s grace had been victorious over. What if, in addition to facilitating the group, I did a blog themed around that issue?
I could share my old journal entries, and reflect on them from my current, freer and healthier perspective. There aren’t many blogs that currently speak to that issue, and none that I knew of taking that particular approach.
It would be perfect! The more I thought about it, planning and exploring the possibilities, the more my excitement increased. This went on for several weeks.
And then… God happened.
And then God, as He does, gently interrupted me:
“Uhm, excuse me.”
(Ok, God, Creator of the Universe, Alpha and Omega, the Great I Am, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, etc., probably didn’t actually begin with an “uhm”… However, His tone just had that gentle, unassuming and polite quality, and there’s nothing like beginning with a good, soft “uhm” that helps communicate such a feel, ya know?)
He continued, gently, firmly, and to the point:
“I did not ask you to start a blog about this topic. I asked you to lead a small group. This blog, while a really good idea of yours (He’s so affirming, even when correcting, isn’t he?), is not, at this point, MY idea. Therefore, it’s NOT, in fact, a good idea.”
He went on to show me that even though on the surface, this blog seemed great and like it could help a lot of people, reach a wider audience, etc., the truth was, in the hidden parts of my heart, that blog would be about bringing glory to me, not him.
As much as I wanted to pretend this wasn’t happening, I had started to fantasize about how maybe I would become a famous, well known blogger! Maybe I could make money, turn this into a job! Wouldn’t I be so great and clever, talking about something not many people are talking about?! I could even imagine myself standing in front of audiences, having been invited to speak (this alone should have alerted me to the fact I was deep in the clutches of selfish delusions of grandeur, as the idea of actually speaking in front of an audience terrifies me!).
This is what was inside of me? How repulsive! (It’s even painful to put into writing and admit to myself, much less anyone reading this!) As hard as it was (and is) to let that idea go, I realized that if I embarked on a project God did not set before me, it would not ultimately be blessed or fruitful, regardless of the intrinsic merit of the idea.
So. I reluctantly put that aside, and focused on being faithful to what I was sure God had instructed me to do: start a small group.
King Nebuchadnezzar’s Letter
At some point in time thereafter, I was reading the Bible and was utterly struck by a verse and the story in which it was embedded.
It was the story of the fall and rise of King Nebuchadnezzar.
The one where he went completely, absolutely, downright bat-
God warned him through a dream- interpreted by Daniel- that because of some certain sins, he would essentially go insane for an extended period of time, until he learned that the Lord was sovereign.
Apparently, Nebuchadnezzar did not repent, because exactly one year later, as he was up on the roof surveying his kingdom, he uttered these words and this is what happened:
“Is this not magnificent Babylon, which I have built as a royal capital by my mighty power and for my glorious majesty?”
While the words were still in the king’s mouth, a voice came from heaven:
“Oh King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is declared: The kingdom has departed from you! You shall be driven away from human society, and your dwelling shall be with the animals of the field. You shall be made to eat grass like oxen, and seven times shall pass over you, until you have learned that the Most High has sovereignty over the kingdom of mortals and gives it to whom he will.”
Immediately the sentence was fulfilled against Nebuchadnezzar. He was driven away from human society, ate grass like oxen, and his body was bathed with the dew of heaven, until his hair grew as long as eagles feathers and his nails became like birds’ claws.” Daniel 4:30-33
The story ends with the king praising God once the allotted time was complete, acknowledging His sovereignty, and his mind and kingdom were restored to him.
And then he wrote a letter. It was this verse, the beginning of his letter, that so struck me:
“King Nebuchadnezzar to all peoples, nations, and languages that live throughout the earth: May you have abundant prosperity! The signs and wonders that the Most High God has worked for me I am pleased to recount.” Daniel 4:1-2
Now, if you look at the sequence of the verses in the two passages I shared, you’ll realize that the account we read about in verses 30-33, about the king going crazy, was written by him, as a part of his letter.
Let that sink in a minute.
Nebuchadnezzar himself wrote a letter, painting a no-holds-barred, unflattering to say the least, picture of himself: naked, looking like a wild, shaggy, unkempt crazy person, acting like an animal.
And furthermore, he distributed it to… EVERYONE IN THE WORLD.
And FURTHER-furthermore, he said it PLEASED him to recount the story.
What??? That was just astonishing to me. What could possibly be pleasing about intentionally exposing your shame to everyone? I mean, that’s the sort of event you just kind of hope everyone would forget about, or at least pretend out of politeness to forget about and never ever EVER mention!
Our Fear of Exposure
I think most of us, myself included, are pretty far from pleased to talk about those kind of unflattering situations or events in our lives.
Although who are we kidding, most of our shameful experiences are nowhere near that of Nebuchadnezzar’s! Nevertheless, we are afraid to talk about what God has done for us, specifically, because that would mean we’d have to share our utter depravity and sinfulness.
Here’s a few ways this can play out:
Sometimes, this shame keeps us bound to complete silence, and we tell no one about our past or present struggles.
Or, we tentatively venture a few step beyond utter silence into the domain of vague sharing: “Oh, God is so good, I was really having a hard time, you know? I was really messed up, you wouldn’t believe me if I told you. But thanks be to God, He brought me through it.”
Or we pretty it up, just enough so that we look sort of bad, but not utterly sinful, and fairly redeemable.
Or we speak of things as though they are so in the past, over and done with: I’ve overcome this, I don’t need to talk about it.
Or we go overboard and share all the gory details and end up glorifying our own degeneracy! Yet when we try to protect or inflame our image, we detract from the immensity of God’s power and works.
The Key to Sharing in a Way That Glorifies God
The key to the kind of sharing that leads to glorifying God lies in what Nebuchadnezzar actually said. He didn’t say it pleased him to tell his story, he said it pleased him to recount the signs and wonders God worked for him.
His story was merely the supporting element to the main point.
The point wasn’t his insanity, it was God’s sovereignty. Telling the story of his insanity was necessary to fully illustrate the incredible nature of God’s power and love.
Often, one way or another, we focus on our shame aspect of the story, rather than God’s glory aspect of the story.
Therefore, Nebuchadnezzar provides an example of how to be open, honest and vulnerable, in order that the focus be on God rather than ourselves. He begins with:
How great are his signs, how mighty his wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his sovereignty is from generation to generation. (Daniel 4:3)
And ends with:
Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the king of heaven, for all his works are truth, and his ways are justice; and he is able to bring low those who walk in pride. (Daniel 4:37).
And in between is an unflinching, honest account of what happened to him.
Back to the blog
In light of all that, I felt like God lovingly
smacked nudged me and said, “If you want to write, this is what I want you to write about:
The signs and wonders the Most High God has worked for me
So that’s the purpose for this blog.
To bravely share, with a spirit of pleasure and unshrinking, disarming transparency, the things God is working and has worked for me, in hopes that He will be exalted and glorified to you who read this, and to myself.
Rather than stay silent, for whatever reason, I will strive to consider it a delight to recount what He has done for me. As it says in 2 Corinthians 12:9 “[God’s] power is made perfect in weakness.”
And I hope you will be encouraged to do the same- in whatever way, great or small, that God leads you in your own life- to begin to share what God has done for you.
To begin to view the painful things you’ve been through, or your own failings, as things you are eager and excited to share, because God’s hand and grace overshadow any shame or embarrassment, and the opportunity for Him to be glorified through your situation is more compelling than the desire to protect yourself from the potential judgement of others.
Even through the simple act of writing this post, the uncomfortable connection between the moral of Nebuchadnezzar’s story and my own process of creating this blog became increasingly evident, and increasingly convicting.
My “brilliant idea” original topic threatened to send me down a path of worshipping me and the work of my own hands, so to speak, which mimicked the prideful and arrogant attitude of Nebuchadnezzar before he was humbled.
Therefore, I thank God for His grace, and the wonder He worked for me, even in this seemingly simple area of starting a blog!
So what about you? What weaknesses do you feel God prompting you to be more open about in order that He may be glorified? What are some ways you can begin sharing his mighty works to others in your life? I would love to hear from you, so please leave a comment!
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Read Nebuchadnezzar’s entire letter here
More Tim Keller? Yes Please! Click here to listen to a sermon he gave on the subject of Nebuchadnezzar’s pride and downfall ***disclaimer: I haven’t actually listened to this one…but I’m sure it is fantastic and highly encourage you to check out his teachings if you aren’t familiar with him***