Today in our new series on Writing As a Spiritual Discipline, InterVarsity staff member Angelo Blancaflor shares his thoughts. See Angelo’s other work for the ESN blog here. Previous posts in the Writing as a Spiritual Discipline series include Limits and Creation and The Spiritual Act of Naming: Truth Telling in Writing.
Since finishing undergrad, I’ve moved back across the country—from school in Illinois to home in Orange County, CA. Writing has been a big part of the past 8 months as I’ve been re-adjusting to the area, away from the majority of my social circles. I’ve been able to capture moments and share them with God and my distant friends.
- Journaling as live-processing with God. I’ve found myself in many new situations as I’ve moved, started and finished work in a research lab, and transitioned into full time InterVarsity staff. Speaking in new situations (like a new small group, or during meetings) is uncomfortable for me, but I need to be able to use my words to think and process my surroundings. I started bringing a journal to “think out loud.” The pen and paper can’t be misconstrued like my phone can (though I prefer to journal with my phone), and signals my presence. It’s a creative, free space in which I can respond to what’s around me, and it lets me enter into conversations with a posture of learning and curiosity.
- Letter writing to distant friends. As much as I’m able to keep up with friends from across the country through digital media, sometimes the ease of it fails to capture what I want to share. For me, keeping up with my friends at a distance means telling them about moments in which I wish I had their company. It’s a throwback to times we shared when we were together. There’s something about the presence I spend while writing a physical letter—sitting in one place and only focused on that task, that can get lost when sending messages on my phone. In contrast to the multiplicity of digital media, it’s a calming supplement to the ways I do connect with my friends online.
- Personal blog writing. Blogging requires a little more thought and effort than journaling. I’ve been using it to keep a history of what God’s put on my plate in that time. I have 800 words to crystallize an idea, and I don’t have to explain every connection because I can hyperlink other posts or pages. Like journaling, it’s a free space to make connections. But, it also forces me to polish and argue towards those connections as best as I can. When I look back later, I can trace how my ideas and thinking have developed since, and see clearly how God has been shaping my thinking.
- Writing for ministry. Ministry in Digital Spaces keeps a blog of resources and stories, and part of my responsibilities is to write for it. I feel a sense of enabling and being known when I think of how God’s calling for me right now involves validating my experiences in online community. My stories hold lessons that can be ministry tools. It’s as if God is telling me that this part of who I am is essential and important to His kingdom. From Urbana last year, to this kind of writing being part of my work, God’s been redeeming my sense of identity as a story worth telling.
Angelo is a 2016 graduate of the University of Illinois, where he focused on Molecular Biology and Asian American Studies. He’s interested in intersecting several fields: bioinformatics, microbiology, minority studies, digital humanities, and the role of faith as an academic. He has recently joined InterVarsity Christian Fellowship as a Digital Spaces staff member.