Without a net

Sometimes, I start writing without knowing what I am going to say.

This isn’t exactly like speaking without thinking. That happens often enough in conversations. Someone asks a question and I start talking, and jumping from idea to idea. Some of you know exactly what I’m talking about. You’ve seen me face to face. Or, perhaps, you’ve looked in the mirror.

blankWriting without knowing what you are going to say is completely different. You know that you can delete your words. You can edit. This kind of writing happens when you pull up a white page and start to type. And you wait for clarity to show up.

In particular, for me, this happens when it’s time to write in one of my teaching or speaking or emailing or blogging settings. It’s time to write. And I start. But I wait for God’s Spirit to remind me of some question, some answer, some topic.

Nothing comes, regardless of how many words appear. I could go to the archives and take a day off. I could pick an argument. I could write an open letter to one person. But sometimes I just want to be present with the keyboard and the words and the white page, trusting that the presence, rather than the specific content of the interaction, matters.

I wonder if this process of discovering what I’m thinking by writing is one image of what praying is like sometimes. Sometimes we have specific things we want from God. Sometimes we have specific prayers we say because they are need to be said (See, for example, three prayers from Ruth Haley Barton). But sometimes we start into conversations with God without a net, knowing that the other conversationalist once told a thousand demons to leave (and they did), but trusting that he also was willing to sit for awhile and chat over supper.

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About Jon Swanson

Social media chaplain. Author of "Lent For Non-Lent People" and "A Great Work: A Conversation With Nehemiah For People (Who Want To Be) Doing Great Works." Writer of 300wordsaday.com. I help people understand. Understand some of the Bible. Understand what Lent can be about. Understand what it means to follow.