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If you had asked me two years ago for a list of the top fifty faith bloggers, I could have provided you with that list and culled them into a rough top ten. And if you were interested in the the top twenty up-and-coming faith bloggers? I would have rattled off a few names you’ll recognize today as The Big Ones.

But now? Ask me about the most popular Christian writers online and, outside of the Deeper Story family and a few big names, I’ll scratch my head and bite my cheek and tell you I’m not really very sure.

 

A year and a half ago I stopped reading faith blogs.

 

I’ve always soaked it up. All of the discussions, the arguments, the lovely intriguing drama of intellectual spiritual conversation. Clicking, late in the evening, site to blog to message board to Facebook thread with 200 comments. People were examining the good things, the hard topics, and I was all in, chasing the rush of the comment debate, the thrill of feeling right. Keeping my words gentle was my modus operandi, glorying in the ability to argue and convince gracefully.

Smack in the middle of my own spiritual crisis, I flocked to those who were searching, seeking, offering answers or still not quite finding, all waiting in the tension.

Taking comfort in the understanding, in the shared frustration, in the common wounds and questions.

 

Discussion and debate can engender a dark underbelly, as anyone can attest. But aside from witnessing the inevitable taken-too-far disagreements and personality flareups, I hadn’t anticipated an eventual settling in of my ​own​ darkness.

A steady diet of controversy, heated conversations, and Christians carrying axes, looking for grindstones had left me cold and jaded, mixed up and confused. I became skittish in my own words, afraid of a misspeak that might spark a firestorm or highlight my own ignorance or, worst of all and certainly most common, allow me to be completely misunderstood.

I lost my voice. I became afraid of my own shadow.

 

So I just… stopped reading. Ended participation. I went into faith blog detox.

I cleaned out my feed reader.

I unfollowed half of my Twitter list.

I went on a wild unfriending and unliking spree on Facebook.

And then I sat and relished the quiet.

 

I spent a year basking in that peace.

Not talking much. Turning away when I caught wind of online altercations.

[Enter celebrity pastor's name here] said something crazy? Oh. That’s nice.

An old acquaintance on Facebook is ranting about alcohol use and Bible versions? The hide button is right there!

Three hundred comments on that post about mutuality? Probably some good thoughts in there.

A thread about Evangelicals voting for a Mormon? I’m sure THAT’S a fun one.

Twitter is ablaze with the title of that new book? Have fun!

 

I felt a bit guilty, as if I had abandoned my post. I believe strongly in standing up for the weak, in calling out truth when it demands to be called, in naming error when it causes harm.

But there was something more in this hushed season, a whisper I hadn’t been able to hear above all the noise.

And it took practice – not going to lie. I still bolted to defend myself when questioned. I recall one particularly outrageous  long-winded Facebook message last spring, defending my position on the practices of a former church.

Slowly, slowly, I convinced myself it was better to listen to that Spirit nudge to turn my phone to silent when I noticed the beginning of a red hot online dramafest.

My heart just couldn’t take it.

 

I believe the internet and faith blogging can successfully host a healthy, safe environment for questions, discussion and the healing of spiritual wounds. Here on the Deeper Story channels, we hope to provide just such a place. Here, honesty is solicited and civil dissent is welcomed.

But sometimes, the voices coming through the computer screen are too many, too loud. Sometimes, God whispers to come away from the noise, from the myriad opinions and experiences and opposing thoughts, and he meets us there, in the quiet.

I spent a year tuning it all out. Intentionality mixed with a bit of desperation.

And it was there, in the hush, in the stillness, that I could finally hear God.

 

58 comments

  1. I hear you. For some reason, in the past 2 weeks, the faith blogs have really affected my heart. In fact, I was ready to just stop going to church altogether. Strangers’ viewpoints are having too much input in my own relationship with God.

    I’m glad I read this post. Instead of going to extremes and disconnecting from my church family, I’ll just “unfollow”.

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  2. I had to do something similar to that. Thought I haven’t wiped everyone out, I’ve certainly cut the list down.

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  3. Yes! This is me, I am here! I a just deleted my FB for these exact reasons. I’m tired of being misunderstood, I am tired of the arguments and debates. There is only one voice that really matters and I haven’t been able to hear it over all the meaningless clutter.

    Thank you for expressing this so eloquently.

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  4. This is a really nice description and practice of what the desert tradition called guarding the heart. I think the key is recognition that “My heart just couldn’t take it.” It is as you suggest an act of vigilance, silence and listening, and presence to a greater voice.

    Peace be with you,
    Mike+

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  5. Thank you for this. I did the same with faith blogs, and homeschooling blogs. For awhile I felt like there must be something really wrong with me to not be able to take it all in and measure up to each standard. Then it hit me that I couldn’t hear/wasn’t listening to God’s way for us, just everyone else’s.

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  6. Oh, Ashleigh, I’m right there with you. It can be stressful rather than edifying and, honestly, feed our pride. The devil is smart: Christians get puffed up, like you said, by being right in gentle ways but it all comes back to the same feeling: pride and the rush of having had the last word, even if it is about issues that matter. You described my feelings to a T. I kept thinking about Proverbs 19:10: “When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.”

    So glad to know I’m not crazy and irrelevant for not wanting to participate :)

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  7. I love what Mike said about guarding your heart. That’s EXACTLY what you’re describing to me, and it takes wisdom and strength to both recognize the boundaries needed and then enforce them.

    I’m proud of you, Ashleigh, and I love seeing what you’re learning in the quiet places.

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  8. I loved this post! Man can I relate. I am not big on controversy and don’t court is much on my blog–but I dipped in my little toe recently with a post about Justin Lee’s memoir about being gay, Torn, and even though I was glad I wrote that post, it reminded me that I have a pretty tender heart and maybe my calling is not to be one of “shakers” who I so admire. I think we desperately need people who are willing and able to lovingly discuss hard topics. Some people are called to write those blogs and books and some of us are called to read them–even if only for a season. But boy do I relate to this post, because it can easily get a little toxic if you breath too many fumes of controversy or dissension. Anyway, thanks for writing this, Ashleigh! You reminded me why now and then I just take some time off.

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  9. yep. yep. yep. thanks for this. :)

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  10. JD

    Kinda jealous. :) I totally agree with you, but I do spiritual formation social media as a big part of my career, so I don’t have the glorious silence of the media fast, the peace of tuning out, nor the glee of the “unfollow” button quite as often. I do unfollow those who seem to only stir up strife in my heart or that would be too controversial to my readership, but some of it is unavoidable. It’s a love-hate thing for me. I get so much life and community from faith blogs that honestly just doesn’t exist IRL here no matter how hard I try. But, I also get really wrapped up in the junior high drama of it all, and that hurts my heart because I feel that “My brothers, this should not be” verse coming to mind often. :/

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  11. DebiDew

    Well put.
    Totally relate, and am loving the peace now.
    It is not uncaring to avoid a snare. Joseph running will forever help me frame these well. It is better to run from a snare than….. When there is a true need, the Spirit is faithful to nudge.

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  12. Jill Byard

    You have put into words the very things I have been feeling. I shall continue to listen to the quiet hush.

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  13. <3

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  14. Gosh, I was totally battling this last week, for reasons I’m sure are fairly obvious here on the Deeper Story network. It’s good to debate and discuss; I want to do these things, especially with so many thoughtful individuals with amazing stories to tell. But sometimes, it becomes a narcissistic endeavor of ours to talk talk talk, argue argue argue, instead of listening to God and seeking Him out in the quiet. I should have been doing this last week. Lesson learned. It’s not that I shouldn’t read faith blogs (here I am on Deeper Story today!) but I just need to be more aware and defensive of the healthy boundaries I need, and less aware and defensive of my stance and everybody else’s opinion on certain issues. I have to learn when to let go and turn everything off.

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  15. Kim

    Thanks for the post Ashleigh!

    I totally can relate…so good. I started feeling like I was following hard after theology and not after my actual relationship with God. I love truth and digging deep but sometimes you have to come up for air and sit back and just breathe…. I’m learning to trust and lean into “Him” and not into my “theology” of Him…..

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    • Agnes

      YES – ‘following hard after theology and not after my actual relationship with God’. EXACTLY!! I was so tired the other day to read about someone’s ‘theology’ and then see them bash someone else over the head with it. ‘Clanging cymbals’ comes to mind – what is the point, it’s meaningless if someone is mean with it. I also wish I could write responses to some of the things I see people writing, but then I feel it’s not really worth it – I don’t know the people and will risk being misunderstood and coming across as rude, so what is the point? I will save my energy and heart-strains for people around me IRL. Having said that, I still keep reading along..and comment at times.. ;)

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  16. Becca

    I have been taking a break from reading faith blogs as well. But when I saw the title of this one show up in my inbox I had to read it! :) I relate deeply, and I wasn’t even engaged in the conversations–I only took the time to read, not to comment. But even in just the reading, I felt my spirit, heart and mind overloaded. Thanks for sharing!

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  17. my heart and soul are so often hungry for that quiet. I can’t engage in that stuff often either. I tell stories of experiences that have to do with faith sometimes, but I’m afraid of all the “discussions” most of the time. I have so much in my head and heart to work through already. God is such a soft-spoken dude. I hate to drown him out.

    xoxo

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  18. Just about to share this one a live news program in Ohio

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  19. kristi

    Ashleigh, I have prayed many prayers for you, sweetie, that you would hear God. Especially in those moments when I could hear your discouragement and your doubts.
    Faith is NOT a journey we walk alone. We just can’t see our Companion. But when we stand still and listen… we can hear His sweet and familiar voice. I’m glad you heard Him. That last sentence let me know He heard my prayers.
    I sure do love you and your mama, even though we’ve never met. You’ve been a blessing.
    “My sheep hear my voice and they know me.”

    ~Kristi

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  20. This is so true! Since I started reading faith blogs, I’ve noticed many things that, in the end, tend to try my own faith or strengthen my own doubts, instead of helping me turn to Him for guidance and help. And it’s so easy to get yourself overwhelmed with things online! It’s just so easy to click “like” or “follow” and then to start paying attention to so many things and words that, in the end, are mostly inconsequential because we all are entitled to our opinions and ideas, but we’re not always right and there’s a looooot of people who have a hard time understanding that. :S

    I like the idea of faith blogs and the fact that many of them provide with good ideas to improve your own spiritual practices and, if you’re like me and were kind of lost at the beginning, trying to find yourself and your own faith again, after having lost it, they can help you with ideas that inspire thoughts that eventually lead you back to the Lord. But I definitely agree that one must be careful not to overdo it, not to lose perspective and not to end up wasting valuable time in argument with others as flawed as we are, instead of trying to do something really useful with our time or spending it with Him instead of arguing and trying to prove who is right or who is wrong. It’s hard, specially if you’re passionate about some topic in particular, but… Like with most things, the internet tends to make it too easy to get yourself overwhelmed, to produce too much of too many things, and we need to focus on what’s really important.

    Thank you for this post! It was nice to read some of my own ideas so clearly expressed. :)

    God bless you!

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  21. That is why I love this beautiful place so much. It is refreshing and challenging at the same time. I love that! Deeper makes me think and listen and choose, but I do not feel manipulated to join and defend an opinion. When I first started blogging I refused to read any faith blogs at all. After 25 years in vocational ministry I wanted to hear the “other side” and I was shocked and pleased at the new friends I made “out there”.

    Faith blogs of yester-year tended to be all flowers and sweetness. Then they became debate centers. I don’t care for either form. The quiet is nice.
    Susie

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  22. Bethany

    Love this post. I have often been too quickly caught up in debates and protests and missed the opportunities for authentic relationships and loving interactions that we are called to. “They will know we are Christians by our love for one another” can sometimes be hard to believe when our angry debating gets the best of us. There’s a good reason Father says “Be still and know that I am God.”

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  23. You have clearly hit a nerve with this good post, Ashleigh. I think we all get more than a little bit overwhelmed with some of the rhetoric-verging-on-vitriol that can emerge out here in cyberspace. I know I have hit ‘hide’ quite often during the recent election crapola-fest! And I agree with an earlier commenter that some of us are ‘called’ to the more argumentative types of posts. Me? I’m in it for the stories. I want to hear how God works in your life and my life and the lives of so many others. And that includes the hard stuff, the silent times, the questions and the confusion, to say nothing of the grief and pain. The head-trip, theological fine points – well, they’re most often just exhausting as well as exhaustive! So I think you were wise to step out for a while, to close down the noise and wait for that still small voice again. I’m glad you’ve hung onto this space, though. It’s a good one and a very good place to be, isn’t it?

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  24. This is SOOOOO good!

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  25. I love this article. I think this is a natural progression of any Christian. You find Him. You burn like a flame on fire – and cleanse the darkness of your reality… you take up His cause and answer to the naysayers. Then as your life progresses and you see your sin and failure in your children, you learn that the more you live and the more you make mistakes, the less you can point a finger at anyone. You find that “working out your salvation” means working – really working. And you stop worrying about everyone else out there who might not be doing this right, or that right, but you worry about your own load. You start carrying it in the silence and praying that God would help you do it right.

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  26. This is a good word, Ash. A steady diet of controversy does us more harm than we’re often aware of. I stepped back from much of this a year or so ago because my spirit was becoming as uncharitable as the people with whom I struggled. I didn’t want to lose the ability to be gracious. I’m fairly careful about which blogs I read and so on. There’s so much noise, we can lose sight of what deserves our attention. When I do come across one of those things you mentioned, I find I approach it altogether differently. I feel more like myself again and I definitely have been able to hear God more clearly.

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  27. I don’t know of many faith blogs apart from this place (and I dig it here). Debate and cutting-edge progressive whatever sorts of things leave me tired. I’m happy to spend my blogging time in relation to work.

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  28. The last few weeks, scrolling through my twitter feed has left me feeling completely exhausted. I feel like conversations on the internet can so easily become self-congratulatory, look-how-important-and-angry-we-all-are, unproductive rant fests. I think blogs and social media CAN be a wonderful forum for people to encounter new ideas and process existing ones, but often isn’t.

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  29. Wendi

    Well said…well said. For me it is in the stillness that the strength and answers come!!

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  30. Patti

    I agree, my blood pressure just normalized by reading your post.
    Now I need to find that balance between rest/time with hearing God and being active in discussions whether online or socially that really do help people sort out spiritual abuse issues. Sometimes we are led to help one but then we take it up on our own to help everyone.

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  31. I’ve pretty much done the same thing. The Deeper channels are nearly all I read these days.

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  32. Leandralioness

    As a recent Twitter follower and a bit longer fb user. I have seen the religious debates.. What amazes me is so many people’s desire to voice their opinion on that persons theological view point or what they did or didn’t do. As Christians should we not approach our fellow Believer quietly if there is a matter , don’t think this means Public!!
    Spending time with Jesus away from tv, computer , twitter fb , is the best way to get His perspective on it all.
    Spend time with your church family , encourage each other build each other up. Study the Word.

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  33. I think I am doing this more and more – and not with just bloggers, but people in “real life” that I just need some space from. I don’t want to feel frustrated/hurt/angry/confused more than I need to – so I have stepped away from some things, and I think the process will continue. I’ve also realized some of the people with the biggest audience are the hardest for me to handle.

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  34. A couple of weeks ago, I gave up Christian books and Bible studies for a three-month period. I’m also skipping a lot of tweets and fb posts. My spirit just couldn’t take much more. I just need to hear straight from God…and He’s actually been speaking!

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  35. good article! Been there, done that. When my wife was dying in May, I stopped watching the TV (especially cable news) and listening to talk radio for similar reasons. I am healing from the grief now, but for some reason, I have no desire to go back to all of the negative news and partisan bickering. Sounds like you had an “Elija-in-the-cave” experience.

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  36. April

    Heck yeah, girlfriend.

    And ditto.

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  37. The trolls and internet Pharisees are a pain … and painful. Some of them are easy to spot and ignore. But I am finding it harder and harder to recognize the more subtle ones early enough to not taste their vitriol (thanks Diana – perfect word) before spitting it out and moving on.

    I love the stories. I love the right-brained imagery of the creatives. I have have little time or energy to engage in the left-brained debates.

    I love the vulnerability, openness, and honesty of the women of valor who continue to speak words of inclusive, unconditional Love into the darkness. The women who recognize that certainty numbs our empathy. The women who understand that without empathy, there is no Love. The women who continue to battle the barricades of theological certainty that others have erected to protect their beliefs. The women who care for the ones wounded by that certainty. Who care for the ones now embracing the freedom of uncertainty and doubt.

    I love to read what RHE has to say on her blog, but it pains me to wade through 800 comments to find the ones by Diana and HopefulLeigh and Bessey (among many others) that feed my soul.

    I may end up off-line soon. But even if I do, I will continue to blog my own way … without any way to leave a comment. For I paint word-pictures to make my soul grow, not to build a following. And if someone wants to watch that happen and be inspired by it, go right ahead. Share that joy with your friends. I don’t need to know. And if you disagree with something I write, go right ahead and argue that with your friends. I don’t need to know that either.

    Thank you Ashleigh, for causing me to think through how I am struggling with this. I have grown to love all 20+ of the women whose faith blogs I follow … and I pray they feel that in my comments. I want to continue to support them, cheer for them, hold them gently … like the butterfly on my finger in my avatar (which has a HUGE story behind it which no one has ever asked me about).

    I hate to pull my “YES! And…” spirit out from the commentary of these blogs and leave only the “yabuts” of other men. For now, I think I will continue to dare greatly to support the women who are fighting for what needs to change.

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  38. I have to do something similar. Not with faith blogs necessarily because I appreciate the friendships over the good reads or debates which I steer clear of but the Facebook rants and raves. The comment thread blow ups in debate. The rude remark Christians make about one another, not even knowing each other, and displaying the worst example of Js love I had ever seen. It inspires me to rant and rave on my own and that is not what I want my blog to be about. I have one sole reason for writing…to encourage. And of course to lift up the name of Jesus. Debates and/or even discussions are the farthest thing from my to do list.

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  39. I really appreciate this. Though I have learned and benefited from reading faith blogs, I tend to stay away from conversation threads on hot button issues. It’s simply not worth it to me. Words get misinterpreted and my feelings get hurt too easily for me to risk taking part in any online mudslinging.

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  40. Hannah

    And this is why I don’t attend a church. I have been to a few and why get caught up in the drama and the fauxness of it all. =/ And then there are those who basically call me a sinner because I would rather worship God at home or among close friends.
    And I agree with the person up above (leandralioness), if any believer needs something brought to their attention, reproof etc… it should be done in private. And certainly one shouldn’t talk about the situation on a PUBLIC blog or in a Public place. I think people use FB, twitter, personal blogs etc.. too much to bring others down, and it’s way too easy to get caught up in that.
    No thanks, I don’t need all that drama.
    I’d rather spend time with my family and enjoy them. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a firm very conservative Christian but I get worn out easily by all the “hub-bub” in Christian churches and circles. And honestly, most churches don’t seem to offer the meat I desire. I get more out of staying home with my Bible and asking myself hard questions while discussing with my family.

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  41. It’s sad, but Christians can be really good at attacking each other. One of the best places to be deeply hurt is in a church, or on a Christian chat/blog. Much of the Church has lost its focus and mission. It’s too busy dealing with the “steady diet of controversy” that Leigh mentioned. It’s bad emotionally and spiritually.

    Finding the quiet is good. It’s when the Spirit is best able to speak to us. But if the enemy can keep us in constant anger and turmoil there is no quiet. Without quiet we can’t hear the Master speak to us and we definitely can’t feel peace. I Kings 19:11-13 is a good reminder for the need for quiet. The Lord wasn’t in the wind, or the earthquake, or the great fire. He was in the “gentle whisper”

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  42. It’s so subtle, Ashleigh, don’t you think? You read one, then another and another and you fall into that Matrix before you realize you’ve misstepped. It’s addictive, thriving on chaos, and it’s soul-bruising. It takes wisdom to step back, restraint to listen well. It sounds like you’re in a great place :).

    You’ve found perfect words to express your experience…so much of this I understand from the inside out.

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  43. Very interesting to hear your thoughts. I am a non-Christian and a blogger about issues that touch on faith, but it always seemed to me that the faith blogosphere is closed to persons of faith who are not Christians. I admire the introspection you had to focus on YOUR OWN thoughts more than what was being spewed at you. I have a tendency to get sucked into all the drama too and it takes a certain wherewithal to draw your own boundaries. Good for you.

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  44. Yes….. I totally get this. Recently I have felt God telling me to sit down and be quiet and just listen, to Him. Too many voices were drowning out the One Voice that I so desperately need to hear. In order to be a vessel that He can effectually work through we NEED to listen for His leading above all else. Too many voices and opinions brings confusion and doubt. Good for you that you recognized this! I hope your heart and mind are healthy and prospering now! Thank you for sharing your experience, hopefully it will help others to recognize if they need to step back, take a deep breath and look up.
    ~Renee

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  45. I’ve done the same thing. I even deactivated my FB for a couple of months to get a break. I’m tired of the arguing, paranoia, yadda yadda yadda. Aren’t we supposed to seek peace?

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  46. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I saw the title of your post, but I’m glad I took time to read it. I appreciate your perspective and I can relate to what you’re saying. I recently closed my FB account, because at the end of the day I realized it was taking much away from life and giving little to nothing in return. I haven’t missed it a bit. And in this beautiful silence there is a new found freedom to open my eyes and see, open my ears and listen, and live my life. Grace & peace!

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  47. I have been on a faith blog detox too. It’s funny, all along I thought that blog posts about spiritual things would somehow feed my soul. What I didn’t realize was that all of those words, discussions and debates were actually keeping me from hearing the only voice that matters. Silencing all of those voices is the best thing I’ve done in a long time.

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  48. I’m happy I found this. I write a blog that gets little interaction/engagement because I don’t write on controversial topics (or if I do, it is presented very non-controversially). I believe there is a lot of helpful stuff there, though, and would love for you to check it out. I only invite you and your readers because I believe it is not at all like other “faith blogs.”

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  49. OMG I SO RELATE

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  50. Thank you Ashleigh!
    This is really good.

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  51. God is Faithful to his promises! Thank you for writing this!!!

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  52. Hmmm. Make me a channel of your peace. I can hear my mom humming next to me. And then the quiet nudge within me to be still and know HE is God. I love this thread. At each season of our journey I believe God uses very specific things based on what he wants to do next in our own hearts and souls. Silence. Oh baby how sweet it is. Thanks for sharing

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  53. Ashleigh, I enjoyed reading your blog post. I am just starting to get more serious about my blogging right now. I feel like it was important for me to read this post at this time. I’m not one to like controversy and will avoid it at all cost if I can! It has opened my eyes to some risks and good advice for my future posts. Thanks for being so honest.

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  54. and for the same reason, turn off the other noise…television, radio…turn off, then tune in and hear God’s whisper. It’s not necessarily a good thing but, these days (since my husband died), I can go a week, or more, and never hear another human voice (other than XM preaching). Most days, it’s a good thing, other days, not so much.

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  55. I love this post. I have just recently started blogging, about (don’t shoot me!)faith. I know I know. But about a year ago I realized how good the quiet feels, and ironically wanted to share that. So many times I’ve thought that if faith isn’t something that unites us together as believers, then it really has no worth! There is nothing quite like a good conversation about faith that inspires us to be better, to reach out to our neighbor in love and charity, and to connect with our brothers and sisters. Unfortunately all too often conversations about faith (or should I say religion?) seem to do the opposite. I hope you are finding God in the peace and quiet. He always seems to speak to us there. xo

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  56. I can understand your frustration. I try to avoid controversy as much as possible. God called us to be peacemakers, right. Even so, I would love for you to check out my blog Writing on Faith. I promise no controversy, just my personal faith journey.

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