“You’re so intimidating,” she said to me from across steaming cups of coffee.
The words tumbled off her lips shyly, like they weren’t sure of themselves, but they rumbled through me like a sudden clap of thunder.
I sat there with a fake smile on my face and a too-loud laugh in my throat while she talked about my blog and how she just wanted to sit and listen to me.
I would have thought it was funny, except she was serious. And that was devastating.
All this time, I had been writing real, or so I thought. In every post, I tore open my heart and parsed out the contents into print. I dragged my blog right through the daily muck with me, and prayed readers would hold on for the redemption. Sometimes it was funny. Sometimes it wasn’t. But all the time, I fought to be real—really real, not just the pretend real that gains readers but lacks sincerity.
I didn’t want to be insincere.
I didn’t want readers.
I wanted co-laborers. Journeymen. Sisters. I thought writing real was enough to keep us walking side-by-side. I thought that was enough to keep the words from elevating me as we all seek to elevate Christ.
But it wasn’t.
This woman thought, somehow, that I was worth being intimidated by, and it left me spinning. What have I been doing wrong?
Just as soon as I asked the question, I knew the answer because God is good like that. He often gives the answers first and provides the ram before I realize the altar is bare.
All along He had been whispering the answer to my heart. “Be the Word incarnate,” but I didn’t understand.
Now here I was, sitting next to a woman who thought I was intimidating because she knew my words and not my flesh. She knew only the bits about me that could be seen through the peephole of a blog.
Suddenly, I got it. I had been ministering in word only, and it was not enough.
I am called to be like Christ in word and flesh, inspiration and incarnation. One without the other leads to irrelevance or irreverence, and often, both. How quickly we elevate those with golden tongues or pretty words! And how easily lifeless words fall from the lips of those who have no connection to real hurt, real brokenness, and real suffering.
That’s exactly what I was doing–writing lifeless words from the safety of my laptop. I never had to show more than I wanted or get my hands dirty in a ministry I couldn’t control. It was all very tidy and conveniently removed.
But words are meant to be incarnate. Otherwise, they are nothing but self-promoting noise, no matter how honest or real they are. “If I speak [or write] in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.”
If I write a viral blog post but do not have time to help a woman get through a deployment, I have not love. If my article is reposted by a big-name Christian personality, but I hate the people who leave insensitive comments, I have not love. If I land a book contract and have people waiting in line for my signature, but I can’t be bothered to feed the hungry or care for the orphan, I have not love.
What I have is a bunch of noise.
If there is one thing the world doesn’t need more of, it’s more noise.
We don’t need more professional preachers.
We don’t need more blog posts.
We don’t need more legislation.
We don’t need more people who sit on one side of the stained-glass windows, splitting hairs.
We don’t need more intimidating Christians.
What we need is Christ lived out in the flesh and blood of His body, the Jesus who had dirt under his fingernails and bags under his eyes, who gave out bread while his stomach growled and held out his heart to people who would not—could not—do right by it, the Jesus who did not write a single word of his gospel because he was too busy living it.
Anything else is just noise, and noise is not love, not matter how good the marketing is.
And I did not want to spend my life on noise.
I had been asked to apply for a position on the Executive Board of the Protestant Women of the Chapel at Fort Bliss. It is a ministry to military women, by military women. Every week, nearly 160 women and children come to us to get more of Jesus.
Only I didn’t want to apply because I thought I already had enough to do.
I already had a ministry, and lots of words to prove it.
But that woman said the one thing that could have changed my mind. You’re so intimidating. You are word but not flesh.
Just like that, God won the one-sided wrestling contest I was holding in my soul. I interviewed for a position on the board and was offered the presidency.
It blew the peephole wide open. No longer did anyone have reason to find me intimidating. After months and months of ministering together, it is clear that I am just as messy and inglorious and cracked as the rest of them.
Serving as president of this ministry has been beautiful exhausting, the most fun I’ve ever had, and the very thing God had in mind for me all along. Every day, the tide goes out in me, and nothing is left but the mud. But every day, God brings it back again, and everyone can see what is really worthy of praise in me: Him.
It is real. Messy. Incarnational.
Just the way words are meant to be.