My stomach is creaking and groaning like planks in an old wooden porch. I am restless fingers and a timid heart. They hover above the keyboard tentative. Backspace devours the words as fast as I get them down. Nothing comes out right.
I’ve imagined what my words would look like spread out a bit more. I keep a tiny corner of the Internet with a readership I know mostly by name. But I dream in those quiet hours, when the clacking of my keyboard staves off the dark, that my words might find purpose in the wider world. I’ve wondered what they would sound like stretched wider across the Internet and I’ll tell you, I’m a teeny bit terrified.
I’ve always known you never arrive. You never get to a point where you look around and think, “Yes, I’ve got this whole writing thing down. I’m set.” No, if anything, the further your story goes, the scarier it is.
Last week I had two complete strangers come up to congratulate me on being a contributor here. Real people with real faces and real stories and real lives right here in my real-life town. I smiled and thanked them. We made chit chat. Inside I felt like a total goober.
Because even though I’ve been here before, invited to the table, asked my story, prodded along and bolstered by this community of women who are for each other in ways you cannot imagine, I still spent most of the day staring at my cursor winking at me from the blank page, like some inside joke I wasn’t aware of.
I still think other people do it better, have more to say, and are so much further along than me.
In joining a group of women who’ve been writing and sharing their lives and stories for years with sandy-toed summers at the beach house and thousands of words passed between them, it’s easy to feel a bit lost.
The truth is: (in)courage has ministered to this girl who always felt outside and other.
This girl who stood on the outside of countless circles shuffling feet awkwardly, before the days of cell phones and the ability to cushion the lonely awkwardness with a backlit screen, pretending to text some illusive friend, because the ones around you never stepped back a bit to let that circle widen. I’ve stared at the backs of heads, their stiff shoulders like an impenetrable fortress for the elite and all I’ve ever seen is the way I don’t fit. I’ve grasped at conversations like crumbs falling from the table but each attempt made me look more like the beggar I knew myself to be and my voice trailing off into silence sounded hollow and ridiculous in my own ears.
A flock of women made me a sweaty-palmed mess. I felt my belonging as tentative and brittle, like aged parchment and I am the greasy-fingered soul mucking up the pages when we gather. I may laugh too loud and snort or spill my drink on the good carpet. I take up too much space. I tuck myself into couches and grab throw pillows to pull over my belly, clutching them like a shield.
We tell ourselves such good lies about what we’re worth and who we matter to.
We tell ourselves such good fiction about how our lives don’t really count for much, not in the grand scheme of things. We’re all just so unspectacularly ordinary. We talk such a good game to keep our tongues quiet and our voices stilted.
So it’s nothing but ridiculous grace for a girl who spent lifetimes telling herself tales of insignificance to have found her voice. And even more so to find her voice matters even when it trembles. Not because of a wider space or a larger platform but because in telling my story, I’ve found a chorus of brave women penning their own freedom songs.
Sometimes we think to make room for someone else in our circles we have to reach out. But really, more often, we just need to step back. Isn’t that always how the kingdom gets things done? Backwards and upside down. Because when we all step back, the circle widens. The gaps become apparent and the silence in between begs for us to hear each other. When we’re not so busy pushing in to belong, we step back and behold. We find we’re beloved right here with wide spaces for God to work.
You might step back and find yourself listening with your whole spirit for the heart of God. The voice that says you have a story to tell.
Do you ever feel like your voice doesn’t matter, your story isn’t essential, your self isn’t enough? I’d invite you to step back into grace and listen for God’s truth.
You are only ever beloved. You belong.
By Alia Joy, from the (in)courage archives