Are You There?
I once told someone that social media was the equivalent of screaming your brains out for attention at the center of the world, surrounded by about two or three billion other people screaming for attention, too.
I mostly stand by that description. Maybe by now it's more than three billion people screaming though.
It's hard to get noticed in today's world. I've never felt really noticeable either. I think of high school a lot when I think of this. When I was in high school, there were plenty of my peers who were prettier than me. Other people were smarter (or just louder about being smarter) than me, too. Some people were cooler; okay, nearly all people were cooler than me. You name the category, and I doubted I would ever make the top of that list.
What's so great about me? Who would want to pay attention to me? And why?
This question still haunts me sometimes. In fact, the memory of it coming to live inside my mind is burned into my mind.
I remember one time, in my fifth grade class (ironically, the teacher's name was "Mrs. Johnson," which is my teacher name), we had to write an essay letter about how we'd been taken away by aliens and we were writing a letter home. Being the Star Wars fan that I was, it wasn't hard for me to imagine that scenario. I decided, of course, true to my idealistic personality, that aliens had kidnapped me and they were going to make me their queen on a new planet.
That was the moment. THAT MOMENT.
Why would aliens kidnap me and want to make me their queen?
I could not think of a solid answer right away. Some days, when I think of this question, I still feel that initial onset of terror, that feeling of performance anxiety that threatens to choke you while you watch it all happen.
Andrew Klavan is one of my new favorites to listen to on his podcast. He's a good writer, and since I want to be a good writer, I believe about 97% of what he says. One of the things he says that was true for him growing up is the same thing that has been true to me growing up. He says as a writer and as a person, things should make sense.
I agree with that. I have always, in some weird way, always agreed with that.
I wanted my answer to make sense. As I was sitting in that fifth grade classroom, with 45 minutes to churn out a PSSA state testing level essay, I had no idea why an alien (an intelligent one at that) would want to make me, a fifth grader, the queen of the planet.
Now that I'm older I might try to make that a dystopian/cerebral thriller kind of plot. But back then, I didn't know what to write. But I had to.
So I thought about it. What did I have to offer, as a chubby fifth grader with a large nose and broad shoulders, who was a snobby form of shy obsessed with Harry Potter and Star Wars?
I sat there, praying, I imagine, for an answer. Surprisingly, to me, anyway, I got one.
I decided it was wisdom. I was young, but that didn't mean I didn't know the value of learning and growing and changing. I decided that was why aliens would make me their queen. I was young, but I could be wise. We could learn and grow together, and for the better.
I decided that made sense. No one would willingly make a fifth grade queen of a planet if they thought she would intentionally destroy the planet. There would also be no ego, no prior illustration I would feel compelled to follow. Sifting your way through the darkened woods is terrifying, but you don't end up walking off cliffs trying to follow a lucky star. So it would have its share of bumps along the way, but it could work out well enough in the end.
That made sense. So that's what I wrote for my essay. I added in a part of becoming more beautiful as I got older though. (Hey the learning part was implied. I wanted the beauty to be explicit.)
In the Old Testament in the Bible, God allowed Solomon, the son of David, the king of Israel, to be granted a wish, more or less, when he took over after David's death. David was a man who was after God's own heart, so it heartens me to see that I recognize Solomon's wisdom in asking for wisdom. I see it as a good sign that I'm on the right path. In the New Testament, this theme is echoed in Timothy, Paul's apprentice, who was like a son to him. Paul told Timothy not to let people look down on him because he was young, but allow them to see how God's wisdom and revelation had led Timothy to a good life.
Well, I am not that young anymore. Fifth grade was a long time ago, and I am okay with that. I like that I'm the "Mrs. Johnson" now.
And now, I'm sitting here, wondering if anyone will hear me out in the social media landscape, crying out, "Are you there?"
Just like I did in that classroom, I had no idea who was going to read my paper. I wanted to make it make sense, and I wanted it to be realistic, and I wanted it to be good just because I was writing it and reading it. I knew there would be some essay readers who would grade it, and then it would be over. So that was like, maybe three people.
But ... !
But God was still there. Even as a fifth grader, I knew of him and I knew I wanted to do the right thing to please him. Life is hard, and I'd already figured out at my age having the creator of the universe on the opposing side couldn't be a good thing. Even though I figured he'd pass over my prayer for an answer to an imaginary situation (I mean, really, what about all those starving kids and homeless people and loud people who needed parking spots near the mall entrance?) I was not only surprised at his response, but amazed.
Years later, I am even more amazed. More humbled, too. Because God is still here, and I'm still writing, knowing that his heart is the one I'm truly after, the one I truly want to be worthy of. I might not be his queen, but I'm his princess, and I want my words to echo his heart and his truth and his wisdom to other people. I think, not only can I do that, but that's a good, wise choice to make. I do believe that God rewards wisdom and the people who chase after him. I know even if no one else is paying attention to me or my work, he is.
You want to know something funny about that essay? In the end, Mrs. Johnson ended up reading it to the class. She told everyone that she showed it to a sixth grade teacher, who said I wrote on a higher grade level. So, everyone in my class heard my essay, even though I had nothing to offer an alien world as a queen other than my potential for wisdom. It was the first time, I think, that my peers got their first glimpse of who I truly was.
I think I did, too, because less than a year later, under that teacher's encouragement, I started writing my first book.
An answer to prayer is a call to action. I think this is an ongoing answer of sorts. That's why I'm here, writing this. That's me.
What about you? Where are you at?