I’m not much for this sort of thing, but it seems appropriate now. I was just reminded that 2014 is the tenth year of this blog’s existence. Doubtless, it’s difficult to back up from your own work and look at it critically. Moreover, how does one discern a narrative arc in a blog? Bear with me for a moment, though, while I give it a try.
Ten years ago, I was teaching Latin in suburban Atlanta and finishing up an M.A. Some of you, my longsuffering readers, remember those days: my preoccupation with ephemeral news items, shallow engagements with evangelical theology, and all of that classics-related miscellanea. The flirtation with emergent stuff, the interaction with ‘progressive’ CofC bloggers, the casual flirtation with the politics of the Evangelical Left — it’s all there fossilized forever on the Internet. Regrettable? Perhaps. None of it’s terribly compelling, a lot of it is more than a little embarrassing. At the same time, though, the permanence that the Internet bestows on our digital lives has its uses. It’s probably a good exercise for every blogger to go back and cringe for a moment at some clumsily expressed opinion or ill-considered book recommendation that sounded good at the time. It helps to nurture a humble spirit, if nothing else.
A lot has happened since then. I myself have changed. My wife and I recently passed twelve years of marriage. Our two girls are growing up: they started kindergarten this past fall. I’ve been through a seminary degree program and completed another thesis. A job in publishing that started out as a way to generate income with two babies on the way has turned into something that kind of resembles a career. There have been professional successes. I’ve benefited greatly from some close friendships.
There are roses in life and there are thorns, of course. The past few years have seen dreams pursued and thwarted. I’ve had occasion to see how cruel people can be. But I’ve also been the recipient of incredible kindness. I’ve been given gifts of support and friendship that I do not deserve, gifts that I can only attribute to work of a God who cares.
But back to the blog-iversary.
The nature of this blog has changed over time. After 2010 or so, it seemed best to take this thing in a more substantive direction. I didn’t exactly know what that would look like then, but in years since then I’ve given much more space to my research, and correspondingly less to the news of the day, internet disputes, and things of that sort. I can say without hesitation that that was a good decision. One of the unanticipated ironies of that decision is that the narrower my focus has become the wider the readership here has grown. I’m still processing exactly what that means. Growing my readership has never been the highest of my priorities. I can say, though, that I’m extremely grateful for all of your insights and comments on what I’ve written and posted here.
At the center of my shift as a blogger has been my research on John T. Lewis and on the Nashville churches. A reflection of this sort wouldn’t be complete without some attempt to take stock of that. In large part, I have Mac Ice and John Mark Hicks to thank for my focus on these two topics: Mac for countless long conversations about Nashville and the chance to hang around the Historical Society; John Mark for historical and systematic theology classes that helped me put some things in broader perspective, for Kingdom Come, and for helping me see Lewis’ life and thought as a needed area of research.
I’ve been reading and thinking and writing about Lewis in particular with some regularity since 2010. That summer, I was invited to give two lectures at the Lafayette Church of Christ in Lafayette, Tennessee, one on Daniel Sommer and the other on Lewis. It was then that I began to think there might be room for a detailed study of Lewis’ life and work. It was not until 2012 that I had read and thought enough to begin to put together a proposal for a thesis on Lewis.
I think I’ve come to see, as I’ve lived with Lewis and his writings for the past year and a half that this project has always been about more than an indulgence in my love of research. It’s personal: it’s very much about who I am, who I was raised to be, and who I, for better or worse, have become. Constant interaction with Lewis’ thought has challenged and changed me. He’s given me many an opportunity for self-reflection, for reflection on my family and my religious inheritance. He’s been the starting point of some important friendships over the past few years, and the source of some courage in the midst of conflict and uncertainty. For all of that I’m thankful: to him, in a way, and also to all of you who have been here with me to help me process it here.
To be sure, I’ve never been the world’s most consistent blogger. It would be rash of me to promise that 2014 will be any different. That said, there are several exciting things on the horizon. Look for more details here in the coming months.