Smoking for God

It’s been really cool the past couple days seeing what real bona-fide bloggers must feel like. For those of you who haven’t heard, I was recently featured in Relevant Magazine’s online blog. They posted a story I wrote a few months back and just recently sent in to be considered. Turns out the editor really enjoyed it and decided to post it.

But that wasn’t without a bit of struggle.

The original article I wrote is called “I Used to be On Fire For God, But I’m Not Anymore”

The title was one of a couple things the editor changed before publishing it to their website (don’t get mad, that’s what editors do). I can honestly say that I’m very happy with the changes she made, and also interested in the ones I made. The original article is approximately 2,000 words long and the version that made its way to the digital pages of Relevant is only 1,000.

So obviously a lot got lost in the mix–which is part of why I’m here.

I’ve gotten a lot of great feedback from friends and strangers since my post was put online. In fact, as of 6:33 pm 6/26/12:

  • 48 people have re tweeted the post
  • 259 people have “liked” the post
  • 2 have added it on google+ (sorry google+, but I just don’t think it’s working out)
  • 619 people have viewed my blog–which can almost all be attributed to Relevant
  • I’ve also been told that my friends are proud by numerous Facebook posts and the like
  • I’ve also gotten some mixed feedback which is a really good thing. With honesty comes conflict (I’d love to claim that, but I’m sure it’s been said before).

I’d be lying if I told you that for the past two days, I’ve done anything other than constantly refresh Relevant’s page to see how my post is doing compared to the other great articles on their web page. It’s a weird kind of rush knowing there are total strangers reading my story being impacted in ways I could have predicted and ways I’ll never understand. It’s weirdly beautiful.

My approach to I Used to be On Fire For God is the same approach I have in all my other writing–to honestly tell a story. I don’t think I’m called to lead sermons that will convert thousands of people to Christianity or to inspire a nation with my ingenuity and wit. Instead, I think it’s my job to use the gifts I’ve been given to tell the stories that I’ve lived. All the rest is up to you.

When I look back on the old “Yeah, I’m That Guy” archive posts, I’m struck by the way I used to try and wrap up life into neat little boxes. I tried to compartmentalize God and beauty and truth. That’s unrealistic and unfair. The older I get, the more I realize how little I actually know. So instead of trying to tell you how I think you should live, I think my job is to tell you what I’ve been through and what I’ve learned. That way, you can take from my stories whatever meaning or joy you see fit. Because that’s all I’ve got. Stories.

But the tricky part is that in my stories, I’m not always the protagonist–or the best person. Honestly, I think the truth is that most of the stories I remember are the ones where I’ve been a real jerk to someone and learned from it. So the reason that I have plenty of stories which haven’t yet made their way to the internet is that they’re honestly pretty embarrassing. That’s what’s funny about personal writing.

Don Miller talks in one of his books (I think A Million Miles in a Thousand Years) about how personal writing can be really exhausting. I think that’s why I’ve been so spontaneous about blogging over the past few years. After I realized the kind of writing I want to do requires a large amount of transparency and oftentimes humiliation, it became really difficult to be satisfied with the cheesy things I wrote before.

I’m also here to say that I’m sorry if any of my stories offend or hurt you.

I’ve always had a really hard time discerning the line between what I should say and what I shouldn’t. In all aspects of life I’ve always been an over communicator. I also place the most value on being genuine. My favorite people are the ones who I feel are most honest with me. Even if I disagree with someone on matters of faith, ice cream, and football teams, honesty wins me over.

During my time leading CRASH was when this really surfaced. I was a high school senior and therefore going through a new development of privilege coupled with a serious lack of maturity. One of the things I learned to like was smoking cigars/pipes. I never went all the way to real cigarettes, but I got pretty close with cloves.

One day when I was teaching at CRASH (if you want a better explanation of what CRASH was, check out the Relevant post), I told the other students that I wasn’t perfect–that I really enjoyed smoking.

While this may not be the most detrimental of spiritual shortfallings, I really should not have told a bunch of fourteen year olds that smoking was ok. Honestly, that wasn’t my message at all. But to me, I felt like in order to be a good leader I needed to demonstrate the type of honesty that I love to see in others.

My dad was pissed.

He told me that I had a responsibility as a leader to set a high standard and live a good example. I disagreed and we fought about it for a while. In the end I can see both sides of our arguments and I think he was a lot more right than I gave him credit for. Realistically, I was in no place to be a  leader and I should have known when to pump the brakes on my honesty. Now I think it’s all about balance.

What do you think?

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6 responses to “Smoking for God

  1. Dude, good stuff. I recently started blogging. And have come to realize too that the stuff I want to write takes a ton of transparency and humiliation, which is tough. But it’s more more tough figuring out what to share and what not to share, the line of appropriateness gets way blurred. Just started blogging about my past experiences of being a youth pastor, and why that caused me to walk away from the church as a mid twenty something. To say the least I think Ive upset a couple of people…

    • Yeah Andy, it’s really tricky. Maybe someday we’ll figure out how to keep our lives private but still be honest writers. “Maybe” being the operative word. Thanks for reading.

      • I think you only learn what’s appropriate/what’s way too far by what you’re doing now. Spending time on a post, Pressing ‘PUBLISH’ and watching the result. Trial and Error. It builds judgement.

  2. First of all, the weird bunny trails that led me to relevantmagazine.com and then here are pretty cool. So I’m glad I found your blog. Secondly, I’m glad you quoted Don Miller, because I’m kind of on a Don Miller-kick these days and greatly enjoy his content and unique perspective. Your article on Relevant actually sounded a bit Don Miller-ish without feeling copycat-ish, and so I’m glad you know who he is and like his material.

    I think the best writers and the best “sharers” are people who write honestly and without too much restraint. I say that knowing there are a lot of things I’m likely to not even begin to read if I know the content is too edgy for my taste, but Don Miller would be a good example…so I would agree with you on that. Don’t stop being honest; don’t stop sharing your own perspective on the world and telling your stories. There should be more bloggers and writers like you and Don. Keep on keeping on and the Lord will do the rest.

    As to your particular experience with CRASH and smoking, I would say that perhaps…that wasn’t the wisest thing to say? You say “I really should not have told a bunch of fourteen year olds that smoking was ok”, and if that was truly your message- if you just told them you enjoy smoking and left it at that, as a sort of confession- then yes, that is likely the wrong way to go about it. If you used it as a sort of lesson by saying, “I really enjoy smoking- I’m not perfect. But that’s something I’m praying the Lord helps me with,” and went from there, that would’ve been better. As you said, though, you were an immature high school senior and that likely wouldn’t have even crossed your mind in the first place.

    Don Miller smokes his pipe, and every time he mentions it in his books, he talks about it as fact and not something that is seriously detrimental or something he should change. That’s always bothered me, but hasn’t stripped the rest of his life musings of their meaning. Take the good with the bad, I suppose.

    I digress. Sorry this is so long. But I will definitely be looking at some of your old posts.

    • Thanks so much Jobe. Ya know, the smoking admission was a sort of confession, but not one that was well aimed or articulated. I certainly wasn’t trying to tell the fourteen year olds that it was ok to smoke, but I was framing it in the way that I was saying I wasn’t perfect and God was working through me. I never mentioned change and either way it was inappropriate, but that’s how I learned. Thanks for reading.

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