the donkey is busy.

It’s taken me months to nail down the problem. WHY did I shut down after publishing my “Christ-centered church” series?

writers block keyboardI couldn’t even think about public speaking.
In most interpersonal conversations, I didn’t go near a discussion about faith.
I couldn’t write a word in “my” book.
I couldn’t even open the document.

Anything I had to say was pointless. recycled and contrived. self-important rambling. vomit from my fingertips.

my confidence wasn’t the only thing that was shot. my credibility was in a crumpled heap:

Who did I think I was? If God has a message, He does NOT want me to share it. As a matter of fact, if He wants anybody to actually hear a message, He really needs to find someone else to share it. seriously. look at the history. I suck at this.

Not only did the message of the Christ-centered church series get vehemently rejected, it was so vehemently rejected, people rejected stuff I didn’t even SAY. Those posts shut down conversation and built unscalable walls of defensiveness that are still impenetrable today.

Vehement rejection aside, there seem to be just as many people who didn’t understand what I was trying to say in the first place. Not even a little. Then there are the people who are convinced they understand, but when they comment or talk to me, it’s clear. Not even close. I hadn’t succinctly explained what I was talking about. I sometimes wondered if I would have been better understood if I had written those posts in pig-Latin.

Am I dismissing the relatively few people who did understand? who identified with what I said? who responded positively?

of course I am. It’s what we humans do. In an employee review, we will dismiss the 9 “excellents” and obsess over the one “needs improvement.” Because the next review? We want that “needs improvement” to be improved. significantly.

For months after that series, I was convinced I couldn’t put words together in comprehensible sentences. I couldn’t write. I stopped the “conversations with a born-again athiest” series. If what I said about my faith caused CHRISTIANS such confusion and anger, I had NO business talking to an atheist. seriously.

I was paralyzed by a complete and total lack of confidence in my ability to discern ANYthing. God’s will, God’s prompting, God’s movement. Wisdom?

fuggetaboutit.

It was months of paralyzing doubt…no – paralyzing conviction – that I had nothing of value to contribute to…anyone – and even if I did – I was incapable of articulating it with any clarity at all.

I threw myself into physical labor. I can’t screw that up, right?

I began asking God for a mentor. To send someone wise and blessed with discernment. Then, just two weeks ago, I had coffee with a new friend. A deep thinker. We read the same authors. She took the time to listen and dig. She’s a question asker. It was a short four hours. I put my finger on it:

encoding.

and I already KNEW it. I mentioned it in the middle of the Christ-centered church series, in a post entitled ““Christ-centered Church.” I do not think it means what you think it means.”

“Encoding is, to simplify it, the words and pictures I use to convey my message…it’s MY RESPONSIBILITY TO MODIFY MY ENCODING in an effort to clarify my message and minimize any misinterpretation”

encoding and decoding

I went back and read the Christ-centered church series again. and again. and again.

Was WHAT I said inaccurate? no. and I do NOT answer that question lightly. More than 6 months later and I’ve got even more and detailed reasons for believing it’s true. Hard. heart wrenchingly hard. but true.

So. Was HOW I shared the message ineffective? I shared personally and chronologically. I stepped through what I believe God was revealing to me in the order He revealed it. I explained how He revealed it. I read the series again. I went over and over it. I read my prayer journal entries from that time. I couldn’t see any other way to do it. Should I have left myself completely out of it? Excluded my thoughts and feelings? Should I have just stated facts and stuck exclusively with movie clips and metaphors, like dominoes? Was all that personal stuff just a self-indulgent, cathartic purge? If I had just stated the premise of the message up front, would it have had more clarity? Or, as I suspect, would the message have been rejected even faster? Having already decided I was wrong, no one would have come back to read any more; there would have been absolutely NO reason to hear me out.

And here’s the gist of it: If I did such a phenomenally poor job encoding a blog series, how in the world could I possibly encode a book?

I was a communication major. I should be able to structure and articulate a message. Supposedly, I’m an educator. What I came face to face with – what paralyzed me – was that it doesn’t matter a flyin flip WHAT I have to say if I’m incapable of saying it in a way it can be understood.

And then God reminded me of Balaam’s ass.

sometimes God sounds like an ass - Balaams donkey

“Then the Lord opened the donkey’s mouth…”

I don’t believe in coincidences. God led me to this book, and this passage:

“As the final song was sung before I was to be introduced, I leaned to Boneface and out of fear and desperation [I] blurted, “I don’t know why I am here. I don’t know why God would send me here to speak to these people, Why me?” Without hesitation, and with a big grin, Boneface turned to me and said, “You are here because the donkey was busy tonight.”
He was making a not-so-veiled reference to the prophet Balaam’s talking donkey in the Old Testament.
I got the message. God uses anything or anyone He chooses.”
Elijah, Steps to a Life of Power by Bob Saffrin

If God can speak through an ass, He can speak through me.

and it has not escaped my attention that Balaam beat the crap out of that donkey THREE times before he understood what the donkey was trying to tell him.

I just need to keep reminding myself of one thing:

“…Balaam replied. ‘But I can’t say whatever I please. I must speak only what God puts in my mouth.'”

3 thoughts on “the donkey is busy.

  1. “If God can speak through an ass, He can speak through me. and it has not escaped my attention that Balaam beat the crap out of that donkey THREE times before he understood what the donkey was trying to tell him.I just need to keep reminding myself of one thing:

    “…Balaam replied. ‘But I can’t say whatever I please. I must speak only what God puts in my mouth.’”

    Love this. So true. But also remember that some people will not get the message no matter how you encode it. When the heart isn’t ready, the heart isn’t ready.

    Like

  2. God is working even when we don’t FEEL effective or see the fruit. People look at the outside, but God looks at our hearts, He knows our intention. This is a comforting scriptural truth I go to often when I’m struggling. I love your transparent writing — wish we could all be more transparent.

    Like

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