In her plenary session at The Gospel Coalition Women’s Conference, Kathy Keller made an observation regarding Nehemiah (whose book by the same name comprised the key text for the weekend) and his contemporary Ezra. Comparing Nehemiah’s journey to Jerusalem in Neh. 1:9 with Ezra’s journey in Ezra 8:22, Kathy highlighted the two men’s differing approach concerning the use of soldiers as an escort. Nehemiah employed them; Ezra claimed to do so would be a lack of faith.
Kathy warned her listeners that we must not rigidly stereotype believers into identical patterns of spirituality. Rather we must ask what are merely personal preferences. A word to the wise: we must be careful how we definite true maturity in the life of the believer.
Though I think perhaps I extrapolated her application beyond what she intended, I thought of her warning late that Saturday night of the conference as I listened to a panel of bloggers and writers discuss their craft and their goals and their platforms. Though the blogger event was, as it was intended, very encouraging and a whole lot of fun, I couldn’t help but feel a little, well, less than compared to the writing excellence before me.
I’m not sure, still, of my writing goals or even of my writing life period. My blogging is, at this point, somewhat unconcerned with branding or querying or getting a book contract. Hardly anyone reads what I write, relatively speaking, and I’m usually okay with that. My spirituality, as measured–or not–by my writing, is very different from that of the panel.
It might be easy to get discouraged should I compare my offering, meager as it is, with theirs.
But it wasn’t just the size of my blog audience or writing goals that prompted my comparison and corresponding unease. If truth be told at various times throughout the conference I found myself feeling, well, a little ridiculous. Dumb even. So many of the women I met over the course of the weekend were talking about big things, important things, deep things, smart things, things I had no idea about.
A few days after I texted my friend. “Realizing all over again I am not nearly the thinkers some of these women that I admire so much are. Which is cool, the Body needs depth and fluff, yes and amen, but it’s a blow to the pride when you like to think yourself one way only to realize you’re not in that league! Ha!”
My friend commiserated, as all good friends do, but finally reminded me that “in the end don’t we really just want to be known for loving God?” In other words, those so-called spiritual markers and evidences of maturity may really just be differences.
We’re just different.
Maybe it seems a little silly to write so seriously about a hobby. But we do this all the time, do we not, measure our spirituality or someone else’s by some arbitrary standard that is, in the end, an extrabiblical one, a matter of personal preferences and little else? Nehemiah took a band of soldiers and Ezra didn’t. Some bloggers work hard to see their work published in many different venues and some are content with a small readership barely beyond their own families. Some can wax philosophical all day long and some of us are better able to discuss lipstick shades and the latest fiction releases. Or some of us wear jeans to church and some wear a dress and heels. And then there’s education choices and dietary differences and on and on it goes.
Truly there is no end to the lengths we will go to measure and define the truly spiritual and the truly not.
Kathy’s warning is a timely one. Let’s take care, sisters. Let’s not stereotype each other into rigorous sameness. Let’s give each other the benefit of the doubt.
What then marks true spiritual maturity? Love for the Lord. A hunger for His Word. A passion for His glory. Love for the church. Humility. The fruit of the Spirit. By the grace of God, may He grow these attributes in us as He grows us into greater maturity. And may He cause us to encourage and appreciate these attributes in others!