Inspired by students in Littleton, Colorado, who came up with Offline October a few years ago to promote mental health and real face-to-face connection in the wake of suicides in their community, I decided to extend my late-September social media break to include all of October. It was a modified break, though, with a few exceptions, because it quickly became a deeper fast from things much more specific and personal.
We like our fasts to be convenient, don’t we? No, can’t do it that particular day, week, month because it would cost more than we’re willing to give up. Right? And we like our fasts, like our worship time and everything else, to be about us.
Going offline for a month so soon after the release of my first book — I’m pretty sure that’s among the Top 5 things any publishing expert would say to never, ever do.
But I can’t help thinking of how Jesus followed up his revealing and commissioning — the baptism, the spirit-like-a-dove, the audible affirmation from his Father — with beelining to the desert for 40 days of fasting and testing. Shouldn’t he have ridden that wave of spectacle, of spotlight, of buzz? Couldn’t he have marketed his mission, his ministry, more efficiently?
A lot of stories in the Bible follow a similar pattern — paths forward not linear but long, winding ones. Declarations, revelations, promises, all followed by events that suggested the exact opposite direction. But eventually leading to the deepest, most real answers.
I’m not sure how closely this mirrored any of that; all I knew was that I was being drawn into a time of regrouping and even fasting of sorts. And I got how counterintuitive that was. I mean, my book had only been out a month and a half by then.
Really, God? This is what you were prompting me to do? Unplug and lay low? Focus on things more basic, more central, and press into you? Resist not just all the want-to’s, but so many shoulds and coulds?
Especially the shoulds and coulds?
Ok, then. I trust you.
Writing a book has been a life-long dream. But this time has been less about reveling in finally being a capital-A Author than continuing to live a story worth writing about. Continuing to walk with Jesus. Continuing to listen and watch for all God is saying and doing.
Continuing to say, “Lord, I want you more than all of this.”
Continuing to give this story back to him.
Cheryl Velk is the author of the book Garden Songs: A Spiritual Formation Field Journal. Follow her on Instagram.