Absence makes the heart grow fonder

At least, that is what they say.

It has been over a month since my last post. As best I can recollect, that is my longest stretch of inactivity in almost two years, and it has been really hard to start back. As a matter of fact, many times I sat down to pen a post, and left with a blank piece of paper. It seems it got harder with every passing day.

Why is that?

At first gloss, I could blame it on my schedule. The last month of my life was busier than any I can remember. That was the excuse I used with myself to justify not writing. I figured, if I did not have time for sleep and other such luxuries, then surely I had no time to write.

So I chose not to write.

However, blaming my schedule falls short. In fact, looking back over the last month of inactivity on this blog, a truth settles into view. The real reason for my absence was simply a lack of discipline.

In the very beginning, this blog was one part communication and one part therapy. This blog was birthed in frustration. Several months after I landed in Africa, I would return from a long stay out in the jungle to find an email inbox full of questions. Truth be told, I was horrible at communicating with the people praying for me back at home. Most missionaries did newsletters and prayer emails. I did nothing of the sort.

Now, compound this with the terrible loneliness that came from living out in the jungle with no other English speakers. In those early days of being out there, I did not know how to communicate at all, and I needed some way to share my thoughts. I was frustrated, having no way to express everything going on inside my head.

Thus, this blog was born.

I never expected people to read it. I thought I was writing to open air, but I knew that at least figuring out how to put my thoughts into words would be constructive. Yet, for some reason, people started reading it. Then, a lot of people started reading it. It was this realization that I actually had an audience that spurred me on to make a discipline out of writing.

But this blog has always been more than entertaining people. Early on, writing became a primary way in which I wrestled with life. In writing, I was forced to think through all God was doing in and around me. My circumstances, actions, events, and lessons had to be focused and distilled until they could be communicated in words. This discipline proved to be a rich enterprise in my walk with the Lord.

It is hard for me to communicate the benefits of this discipline, as they are, in many ways, intangible. However, disciplined life brings with it a certain sweetness. As a matter of fact, Elisabeth Elliot in her writings referred to discipline as the “glad surrender.” Chew on that for a minute. Discipline takes effort, it takes intentionality, and is, in great part, a surrender. Yet, it is a happy surrender. It is a surrender that reaps far more than it sows.

In essence, the discipline of writing made my life more thoughtful. It created new categories for the lessons brought my way. As I faced the weekly task of putting thoughts to paper, I developed the happy pattern of evaluating my own life. I realized a pleasant side effect of capturing little moments in life that I previously overlooked. Truthfully, I worshipped more and sinned less. I loved better, and hurt people less.

Unfortunately, it often takes losing something before you realize its significance. In such fashion, this past month revealed to me the great joy of discipline, and the detrimental effects of losing it. When this simple discipline disappeared, so did its benefits.

Instead of thoughtfulness, my life was increasingly marked with thoughtlessness. Soon, decisions that should be clear were clouded and scattered. I moved from proactively approaching life to standing in reaction to my circumstances. In great irony, the excuse of saving time by cutting this corner cost far more than it saved. Its price tag was high, indeed.

Lest I am unclear, my point in writing this is not to say that people who do not blog do not think. Instead, my desire is to show the necessity of a life lived in discipline.

So, this post signals a desire to return to discipline and an exhortation for you to do the same.

Keelan

Keelan Cook (@keelancook) is working on a PhD in Biblical Studies at Southeastern and works in the Center for Great Commission Studies. He spent time as a church planter in West Africa with the IMB and doing ethno-graphic research in Washington, DC with NAMB. Keelan is currently one of the pastors at Imago Dei Church in Raleigh, NC.

One thought on “Absence makes the heart grow fonder

Leave a Reply