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Writing is hard. When I was approached by Jan and Sam to contribute to our church blog, I was naturally excited. However, as the date slowly came, I could not think of anything to write. Perhaps I would explore theology through a unique lens like lifeguarding—I have, after all, spent a large portion of the past three years scanning pools and keeping people safe. I've even had to perform a few rescues. It sounded like an excellent idea for a blog post! But whenever I'd sit down to write about it, I couldn't seem to get a word count running. Wait! I know what would make a great blog, exploring the biblical bedrock of my favourite book, The Lord of The Rings. Easy! Surely that would be exciting enough to get my fingers typing something. Yet, I would stare at a white page (a shockingly intimidating image), despite my excitement. And so, here we are. I am writing a blog about not being able to write a blog. Ideally, it will be somewhat more interesting than Dennis Upper’s seminal work The unsuccessful self-treatment of a case of "writer's block” (I’ve included the short read below in the "Downloads" section).  

The best definition of writer's block is "an inability to begin or continue writing for reasons other than a lack of skill or commitment" (Rose, 2009). And the crux of this definition suggests that "blocking isn't simply measured by the passage of time ... but by the passage of time with limited productive involvement" (Ibid.). Something is fitting about this, because this state of limited productive involvement—of being blocked—feels appropriate for other areas of our lives. In many ways, the act of writing appropriately mirrors the act of living. And these blocks, these intimidating white pages, appropriately reflect the uncertainties, frustrations, and anxieties we experience as a by-product of being a little too human

C.S. Lewis is often quoted as saying:


"First, I do not sit down at my desk to put into verse something that is already clear in my mind. If it were clear in my mind, I should have no incentive or need to write about it. We do not write to be understood; we write in order to understand."

See, I think I've had this writing thing wrong. I used to believe that we should only write what we know about. Or rather, look and understand before you leap! I wish I could look at that intimidating white page with Lewis's confidence and freedom. Instead, whenever I see one, I tend to experience feelings of anxiety, frustration, anger, or confusion. And that's not uncommon for the metaphorical white pages in our lives. Sometimes, that white page is looking for a new job, a new relationship, a new adventure. The block we experience is not the inability to form words; instead, it's the thought that we cannot continue or are not good enough. More insidious manifestations of that fear suggest that we're afraid of making a mistake; we are afraid that we are the mistake. 

"I am worn out calling for help;
 my throat is parched.
My eyes fail,
 looking for my God."

(Psalm 69:3)

In Psalm 69 (attributed to David), we see this sticking image of someone in the middle of a white page, a state of limited productive involvement. Even so, he is looking for God. Friends, what started as an intimidating white page taught me something about God's kingdom. My ability to write, my ability to live, and my ability to understand don't teach me how much I need my God. Only my inability can teach me that. Only my sin can reveal my need for grace. Only my fear can teach me about God's Kingship. The biblical narrative reveals how God consistently shows up in the white pages His people encounter. 


As we continue through this Lenten season and into Good Friday, I can imagine the intimidating white page the disciples faced. It wasn't a wordless sheet of paper. It was the Word of God slumped on a cross. And then, it was a deafening silence that was shattered on Easter when Christ rose from the dead. This is the Word that will consistently and dependently show up no matter what we face. The Word of God will appear on every intimidating white sheet of paper even if we are not clever, masterful, or learned. And so, the beautiful thing about these white pages is that we can fill them alongside the author of salvation. Jesus Christ is both Author and Word in the narrative of salvation. Even if I could write with the passion of Lewis, the mastery of Tolkien, and the eloquence of Atwood, I would prefer to hand that white page to Christ. "Love so amazing, so divine, demands my heart, my life, my all."

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References:

Rose, M. (2009). Writer's Block: The Cognitive Dimension. Southern Illinois University Press.
     
Upper D. (1974). "The unsuccessful self-treatment of a case of 'writer's block'". Journal of applied behaviour analysis, 7(3), 497. https://doi.org/10.1901/jaba.1974.7-497a .