Writing scared

I’ve been afraid.

And tired.

And tired of being afraid.

I used to spend my weekday mornings, when the girls are both at school, writing—often with a sense of urgency. If I don’t get these words out of my head, where will they go? When there’s a story tickling my brain and I choose to ignore it, I become a highly irritable, overly sensitive person. So typically, for the sake of my emotional health (and that of everyone around me), I am obedient to the nudge: Write it down. Somewhere. Anywhere!

But with the exception of one essay for The Drafting Desk and a handful of random sentences scribbled on scraps of paper, I have written nothing down since December. Not the blog post I’d had swirling in my mind about the books I read last year, not the thoughts I was doing battle with about choosing a word of the year, not the advent insights that are no longer timely.

None of it.

You know what I’ve been doing instead? Here’s the gist. I’ve spent my time:

Repainting various rooms of our home
Organizing my desk and shelves
Planting seeds in pots in my backyard
Rearranging furniture
Switching out random pieces of home décor—mirrors, prints, lamps, curtains, wreaths
Listening to podcasts
Watching [garbage] TV series on Netflix
Knitting squares for a someday-blanket

Mostly (sans Netflix), they’re innocent things. Not harmful. Good, even. And in all of those activities listed (again, sans Netflix), there are stories and eye-opening lessons that God has been teaching me. But instead of writing them, I’ve buried them.

I’ve felt a deep need for space, quiet, and rest—and I have been giving myself that, even when it goes against every grain of my being, even when I have to fight back feeling guilty for just giving myself a break.

This rest, it’s a good thing. But I’ve also been hiding beneath a beautiful, probably hand-lettered banner of “This is my season of rest!” like I hid beneath my comforter as a little girl afraid of an alligator under my bed or a burglar climbing through my window. (Hashtag Floridian.)

It’s safe under here, or at least I convince myself it is. But it’s also a little stifling. It’s getting hard to breathe.

My friend Becca gave a talk last weekend at a leader meeting at church. The topic? Vulnerability. Of course. In it she encouraged us to identify the “shame tapes” that play in all of our minds—a concept of Brene Brown’s—in order to then be able to challenge those messages. I took quiet, deep breaths, willing my eyes not to overflow (and for once managed to pull it off). Because from the moment she described some of her own, I knew exactly the shame tapes that play, rewind, play again in my mind.

I should mention that in my imagination, they’re cassette tapes. They have a label, scribbled in black Sharpie: The Enemy’s Lies Mix. (Because that’s the type of cheesy title I used to write on mixtapes.)

In these weeks of quiet, under the guise of good rest, I have been allowing my mixtape of lies to play on repeat, and I have not spoken truth back to them. I’ve just let them play on, play on, play on—and I’ve started to believe them. I’m familiar enough with them to be able to sing along.

So like Adam and Eve in the garden, deceived by the serpent, I’ve been hiding.

As I’m sitting here trying to make sense of my own thoughts, fingers to keyboard for the first time in a long while, I decide to pause and take a scroll through Instagram. This is most definitely a failure in good judgment. At the top of my feed is a post from Jess Connolly, and in her caption I read this: “Currently learning the difference between rest and hiding. Hiding puts on headphones and tries to forget the world, rest leaves me restored and hopeful. Hiding says I need to be away and be safe, rest reminds me that only the gospel brings my safety. Hiding leaves me scared to get up and rest knows I was made to move.”

I’ve gotta be honest here—my initial internal dialogue upon reading that was not pretty. It started something like, Ugh, I was JUST WRITING THE SAME THING and now someone with a massive following has already written it and shared it and gotten three thousand likes and now everyone will think I’m plagiarizingand then it went downhill from there.

But once I settled down and grace found me again, I discovered comfort in her words. I’m not the only one struggling with this line between rest and hiding.

In her book A Million Little Ways (one of the handful of books I’ve started reading this year and not yet finished, as is usually the case when I cheat on one book with another), Emily Freeman writes, “Fear drives out the love. When you work from fear, there is no love in your work. And we don’t want your loveless art.”

Ouch, Emily. What the heck.

Her point is that when we create from a place of fear, the outcome is mediocre work. And she’s right—nobody wants that. So there is a time for needing to rest, to take a step back until we can once again create from a place of love—that place of passion, that place of “I don’t care what anyone around me is doing because if I don’t respond to this movement and write this thing right now, my head is going to explode.”

I’ve missed that feeling, and I’d like it back now.

So, here I am, writing scared and believing truth and pushing STOP on that dang mixtape with all of its lies. It’s time to come out from under the covers, maybe set the paint roller down for a bit, stop moving furniture around, turn off the TV, fix my eyes on my own race (or, let’s call it a long walk, because running analogies don’t do much for me), and force my feet forward even when I don’t want to keep steadily plodding along—not on my own strength or resolve, but with the faith that Christ is before me and behind me and that all I need to do is trust Him with this work, whatever it turns out to be.

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