From under the stairs: in defence of blogging

Sometimes when I tell people that I blog they look at me with amusement, even subtle derision, and say, ‘Like, what do you blog about?’ (Which equals: Are people seriously interested in what you have to say?)

Certainly, people define writer in various ways. And most definitions would include the words ‘published’ and ‘excruciatingly rich’. My combined earnings from a meagre list of items published (a smattering of poems, a fistful of articles and a stab at a children’s novel) would hardly pay for my car to be serviced. But according to my friend Clint Archer I qualify as a writer nonetheless because he reckons it’s not about Random House or Bloomsbury putting your name in print. He says that writers write, writers risk (i.e. they hit ‘send’), writers are rejected, and writers are read. If you can say all those things about your literary efforts, then you’re a writer. And he should know, because he’s a writer.

So I’m not a brooding billionaire intermittently tapping away at my keyboard and staring pensively out at my own stretch of the French Riviera. I’m typing this in my writing nook under the stairs that lead up to our loft. The desk is ancient and scratched. It belonged to Murray’s grandfather. It’s also at the edge of the play room and so the Lego encroaches. There’s a window, under the stairs, that gives me a view up into the kiepersol tree. Murray’s guitars lie side by side under the stairs, too, alongside a box of waiting-to-be-filed stuff. Above the desk I’ve got sixty-nine (and counting) pictures that form a fairly comprehensive collage of my most favourite things in life, and of the things that have shaped me, inspired me and moved me. Reminders. Small gratitudes. Places I’ve lived and travelled. Things I’ve done, things I’ve eaten. Things that make me cry. Things I dream of. Things I’ll do at every opportunity I get. Things that remind me of God and beauty. Things that make life wow.

I love my creative corner because it’s so small, so low, such an otherwise wasted and insignificant space. Three of my favourite pictures above the desk are a map of the world, a glimpse from space of the beginnings of a sunrise on Earth, and the famous pale blue dot photograph – the shot of Earth caught in a shaft of sunlight from six billion kilometres away.

These three pictures never fail to give me a throb of simultaneous perspective, hope and excitement. Here’s why they keep me blogging.

World map

It’s a big world. This coloured patchwork of continents is home to seven billion people. That’s seven billion unique experiences, seven billion nuances of perception. I’m not the only one with stories to tell. That keeps my feet on the ground and my ego in check. It also keeps me praying for the millions who don’t know the freedom that Jesus brings.

It’s a small world. If I look at the stats on my other blog I can see how many people in how many countries have been reading my blog that day or that week. It doesn’t make me feel influential or semi-famous; it makes me feel particularly undersized and immensely privileged to be used of God, from here under the stairs. It amazes me that God chooses to send words onto screens and into lives of some people I know and some that I’ll probably never meet.

Almost sunrise

This picture says hope. Because with every sunrise his mercies are new (Lamentations 3:23). It also reminds me that I’ve got today. The past is irrefutable; the future indefinite. What will I do for him today, as the Earth spins slowly from darkness and rest into sunlight hours of opportunity?  If it’s true that you’re only as good as your last blog post, will I be sensitive today as I look and listen and then write according to his leading and to reflect his splendour?

Pale blue dot

Our home planet is an infinitesimal, microscopic, smaller-than-small speck in a vast, measureless cosmos that is only an infinitesimal, microscopic, smaller-than-small speck in the hands of God. As we say in South Africa: Eish... The sweeping histories of every complex, multifarious, narcissistic nation have all taken place only on this speck in space. Traffic and wars and sledgehammers and all the other noisy striving and enterprising and taking-ourselves-too-seriously that happens on this planet is silenced by his glory across an infinite universe. I just think that is so, so cool. As in, who do we think we are? It’s not even vaguely about us. We are not even close to the centre of the story. And yet we’re part of something very big, very beautiful and very real.

This all makes me realise, here under the stairs, that even if I had a selfish agenda – even if the motive of my blogging was somehow to be a light bulb instead of a mirror – the story of the universe would still point all the glory to God. I wouldn’t be a shadow of a threat. Nothing thwarts his plans or his power (Job 42:2). If I had a selfish agenda my endeavours would just be futile, unfulfilling and pathetically temporary. So my small prayer from my small corner under the stairs is that my small efforts in a big world would be used for big things by a big God for his big glory.

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