I am a private person. For a while, I was proud of the fact I had less than a hundred friends on Facebook. I don’t disclose much to people. And I edit in my head before I say anything. Anything.
I find myself in an incredibly ironic place in life. I am increasingly being asked to publish. Publish a recording of my talk. Write and get published. It’s not new, I have felt the tug for as long as I can remember. But I have always successfully pushed it aside. I don’t want to publish. I want to protect who I am and the life I have.
It’s disconcerting when strangers recognize me from a talk I’ve given. It’s strange to see the impact of my words on others. I see all that and though there’s a part of me that feels glad and honored to be used by God in such a way, there’s also a part of me that wants it to be the last time. I think in my head, if I blow it, they won’t invite me to speak again – and I give out a sigh of relief. Unfortunately, they do invite me to speak again. And again.
I want it to end. This isn’t how I pictured my life. I thought I could influence people 1:1, in a private setting. I never asked for a public platform. I am just a petite Chinese-Pilipino- American woman – most people are bigger and louder than me. I am an introvert. The last thing I want is to draw attention to myself.
Recently, two women I respect greatly asked if I would co-author a book with them. We still have to write a proposal and get a publisher on board but I can’t tell you how honored I feel. But the next second, I also felt the familiar fear. What will happen if I publish? Will I lose my life as I know it? I feel like publishing puts me in a really uncomfortable level of vulnerability. I don’t know if I am willing to sign up for that type of risk.
There’s this thing about me, I’d rather criticize those who publish – kind of as a self-proclaimed literary and moral critic – without getting my hands dirty myself. It’s like the food critic who’s never cooked. Incidentally, I love food and also am a self-proclaimed critic (maybe a pattern here?) but I digress.
Here’s what got me over my fear of publishing: my fear of God.
I grew up with a healthy fear of God. I remember many stories of biblical characters who got clear instructions from God, and what happened when they disobeyed. The prophet Jonah is perhaps the one I have always connected with the most. He got clear instructions to go to Nineveh, an ethnic group that oppressed his people, and his job was to deliver a message to them from God. Instead of obeying God, Jonah decides to go to Tarshish. It says, “Jonah set out to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord” (Jonah 1:3).
My desire to flee is quite physical and tangible. But God’s instructions are also quite tangible. Because this is all VERY REAL to me, I realize that not obeying means literally fleeing from God. “Gone to Tarshish,” my sign would say or electronically, “Out of Office: I am currently on vacation and won’t be checking or responding to emails at this time.”
Where is my Tarshish? This is anywhere I feel at home and happy. It’s really quite a small world with a very small group of people. Physically there are a couple of places in the world that fit the bill: Pasadena, CA and Sydney, Australia. We used to live in Pasadena and my husband grew up in a city adjacent to it so it has always felt like home. We have travelled to Sydney more times than any other foreign place and our good friend and his family live there.
Emotionally, I feel at home with other minorities. I am Chinese & Pilipino & American and a woman working in technology, so most of the time I am not at home. I am constantly translating for others. I have to translate for the dominant culture because they don’t want to/know how to cross over to my culture. I am often the only one like me in the room. But being a person of multiple ampersands, as I like to call myself, I have a soft spot for others like me. They are my tribe, my people.
Where is my Nineveh? Jonah’s Nineveh is the place where the people that oppressed his people live. It’s not very hard to translate that to my own life. It makes sense why Jonah didn’t want to go. Why give these people a chance to hear from God? Why give these people a chance to repent and be saved from utter calamity due to their own sin? Let them suffer the consequences of their sin.
God sends a storm, then a big fish to personally escort Jonah to Nineveh. I don’t want it to come to that for me.
What’s my Message? “Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you” (Jonah 3:2). There’s a message for Jonah to say. There’s a message God has for me to say. For the last few years, I have been hopefully faithful in communicating God’s heart for racial equality and justice in the workplace through talks and interactions with people and organizations. But while the core message remains pretty much the same – the medium, strategy, tactics, audience – have all been evolving. And publishing is a new medium for me. The one I fear the most.
But I fear God more. Therefore, I publish. Maybe my wish will come true. No one will read this post. And I can stop writing and publishing. Please don’t comment or share. Just kidding. Um, not really.