June 13, 2006

Paint Spots

Painting houses is filled with adventurous moments. Every trip to a mirror results in a new discovery. Hmmm... how did paint get just there on my elbow? You might find that paint has somehow migrated through the clothing you were wearing and implanted itself on your right thigh. Perhaps you find that spot of paint on the tip of your nose when brushing your teeth before bed - after a day filled with errands. They don't come off easily, either. Showering alone with soap and water doesn't seem to remove my paint spots, despite what latex manufacturers tell me.

I feel like journaling is the same way. I think I know myself so well, and then - wham. Spots where I least expected them.

I try so hard to manage the image I project. I want my writings to be clear, thought-provoking, coherent, pithy and piquant. Piquant I can usually get without trying, but linear is a hard-fought battle that's often lost. It's only clear to me this morning that teachers are the ones who try to make things linear and coherent. In my times with God, I am the student - not the teacher. If I journal with the hope of someone else reading my words and learning something, my primary focus isn't on learning or sorting through new thoughts for myself, but on teaching someone else. It's akin to learning that pushing the yoke forward makes the plane go down, then turning to a student sitting next to me and demonstrating how a plane can dive - without knowing how to pull out of it.

I need to be willing to seem foolish, to be focused on learning and the humility of learning, the receptivity of it. I'm too focused on appearing pulled together and instructive. As my friend Jeff Shrout often said, writers (particularly those who want to be instructive) must be the first learners of what they write.

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