Last Saturday morning, Erik walked into the house after a morning of intense mountain biking. He put his muddy gear away, poured a glass of water, changed his clothes and sat down on the couch, where Rowan and Scout promptly sat on and around him. He looked at me with a smile and asked, "What do you want to do today?"
I had the itch to get outside and move. "Let's go on a hike. I want to see that lake you hiked to with the kids a few weeks ago, when I was out of town. The one up Brighton."
"Sounds good. Let's pack up!"
We got the backpack filled with snacks for the kids and the inevitable chipmunks, full water bottles, jackets, diapers and the rest. The kids climbed into car seats, we drove into the mountains, made our destination, then began our hike up.
We stopped at looked at a waterfall, we crossed a bridge over a creek, and I walked up behind the kids and Erik and watched my little family adventure up the Utah mountain. Scout was chattering about something incoherent in Erik's ear the whole way up, Rowan wanted to climb every rock along the path, and I never want them to grow up.
It was a normal Saturday. No travel, no requests, no conferences. No emails, no writing, no deadlines. No expectations, no commitments, no big decisions. Just a normal day as a normal family doing normal Utah things. It was a Saturday of smallness, of obscurity.
And as I watched my little family hike up the mountain to our destination, I realized that this is what I'm made for.
I'm not built for platforms or pulpits. I'm not made for celebrity or fame. I'm not made for the demands that come with influence. I'm made for hiking up a mountain with my husband and kids. I'm made for Sunday nights in my home, when our small house church community pours through the doors, settles into our living room, eats our food and drinks our coffee. I'm made for studying the Bible on Wednesday mornings with a dear friend. I'm made for home-cooked meals, neighborhood street fairs, and bottles of wine shared around my kitchen table. I'm made more for car rides with my kids, rather than plane rides with my laptop.
And this is the conundrum that I find myself in.
As requests for speaking begin to pour in, as the demands on my time become greater, as another book writing season settles in, as social media demands my engagement, I'm slowly, painfully learning what it means to say no, to choose smallness, to choose obscurity.
The reality of writing a book is that you're expected to promote, promote, promote. Get your name out there. Push your message. And there is a point where stewarding your message is important, valuable and appropriate. I believe in my little green book, and I believe that the message in its pages is important. So, on some level, I need to be willing to put myself out there, to talk about the book in social media, to speak about the importance of Story in pulpits and on stages. There is good stewardship when it comes to influence.
However, I'll be honest. It's really easy to get sucked into the vortex of celebrity and get drunk on that same influence. It's really easy to hit the gas pedal on speaking gigs and promotion and travel, with little regard to your family and true community at home.
There's a fine line between stewarding your message and feeding your ego. There's a fine line between Kingdom-building and empire-building. And for me, I always want to be moving with the ways of God's Kingdom, and subverting the empire. It doesn't mean I'm saying no to everything, it just means I'm saying yes to the right things.
And real talk: Saying no to the big platform and lots of influence? Saying no to my ego? That shit is hard.
Affirmation, pats on the back and recognition feels good. It feels amazing, actually. Validation, acceptance and authority is the ultimate temptation for me. It's the fruit on the tree... except it's really low-hanging.
Some people are able to do the travel, do the speaking, and have a ton of influence. They can steward it well and they can handle it without letting it get to them. I'm not one of those people. I know myself well enough to know that I'd get addicted to it and I wouldn't be able to let it go.
So, I say no to a lot of things, in order to say yes to the right things.
And right now, the right things are hiking up a mountain with my family. Sitting down in front of the computer and typing out the words I'm given. Making space in both my heart and home for the people in my community. It means using my message to heal and bridge the divides that happen in my own city, before I go out and try to fix others. It means making lunches, driving to preschool and snuggling in front of Disney movies. It's Bible studies and coffee dates and home-cooked meals.
Sometimes, the right thing is getting on a plane. Sometimes it means answering the phone for an interview. Sometimes, it means getting on a stage and speaking. But, those instances are few and far between.
Platform and influence will always be an anomaly, not the normal.
Because I'm desperate for a life of smallness and obscurity. I'm craving a life of simple faithfulness. That's what I'm truly built for.