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.