What is Real Influence? You are Not a Brand, You are Beloved

Originally published Tuesday, 11 November 2014.

"Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it everyday." ~ Henri Nouwen {a quiet find in the fog one morning}

Eric and I were driving to Carmel for a weekend anniversary getaway last month. It was a welcome reprieve after months of releasing my new book, Finding Spiritual Whitespace.  I had journeyed through an unexpected two years of debilitating anxiety from reliving painful memories from childhood trauma, as a result of writing the manuscript. 

But, after surrounding myself with a lot "spiritual whitespace" -- rest and rejuvenation -- to heal and write this book, I found the sudden re-entry into the blogosphere noisy and anxiety generating. I had completed over 40 interviews and articles to get the word out about the book. 

I reached a crossroad that perhaps you may be standing in.

Should I keep pushing myself to produce and perform -- fearful of the consequences if I stopped to slow?

Or should I listen to the quiet Voice of Love -- God's voice -- to feed my soul and cultivate my experience of God in my everyday life rather than what I could produce for Him?

Is there a decision you're facing that makes you fearful of how relevant you would become -- if you put the care of your soul in priority?

For me, the journey to become the beloved is where God is speaking to my heart.

Real Influence

Online life can be enriching and imaginative, connecting us with others with similar challenges and struggles -- when we can be honest about our journey.  

Through blogging, I have found kindred spirits who gave me courage to find my voice through the dark times. But, online life also gets complicated because of social networking and social media.

Social networking. It's a collection of people vying for attention, for their products, platform and messages. Social media. It's the tools used to market and garner influence.

Brand influence is a commodity that is produced by working hard to cultivate an identity and audience.

But you and  I are not products.

Spiritual influence -- the way Jesus cultivated it -- is a quality of the soul that enables us to feel intimacy with God and vulnerability with others.

True influence cannot be measured but experienced in our everyday lives -- by the strangers we meet, our friends, spouses, children, teachers, co-workers, and even our own selves with Jesus -- in the daily grind.

Real influence is a quality of the soul that enables others to feel at home with us  -- more loved, comforted, accepted and known -- because we feel at home with God. As is. 

Those moments are often quiet and small.

Soul Loneliness

At the soul of who God made us -- where Psalmist David calls "the innermost being" -- God first touched dirt and fashioned in us the capacity to create and dream, to need Him and each other. He created a soul in each of us.

The soul does not survive on successes and the soul cannot be fed with productivity or achievement. The soul becomes lonely. 

The Atlantic published a powerful article sharing new research that suggests we have never been lonelier because of social media, even though we are more densely networked than ever. All this loneliness is making us mentally and physically ill.

"...within this world of instant and absolute communication, unbounded by limits of time or space, we suffer from unprecedented alienation. We have never been more detached from one another, or lonelier.

Our omnipresent new technologies... make avoiding the mess of human interaction easy.

Self-presentation... is continuous, intensely mediated.  Curating the exhibition of the self has become a 24/7 occupation.

Sherry Turkle, a professor of computer culture at MIT [talks] about the effects of online society:

'These days, insecure in our relationships and anxious about intimacy, we look to technology for ways to be in relationships and protect ourselves from them at the same time.'

The problem with digital intimacy is that it is ultimately incomplete: 'The ties we form through the Internet are not, in the end, the ties that bind. But they are the ties that preoccupy,' she writes."

In a sea of voices, stories, experiences, do you find yourself preoccupied by what others are doing, saying, writing or producing?

Too much online life drains the life of the soul.

Soul Fed:  Beloved

The soul hungers to be fed --

-- by quiet things.  Like the sound of a walk in the morning, with the wind waving your hair against your eyelashes when you blink.

-- by stillness.  Like standing in your kitchen, to steep a pot of tea, so you can savor a book long enough pour cups to sip until it's empty.

-- by prayer.  Like hearing the sound of your pencil drag across your journal, as you pour out every thought and feeling, confiding as friend to friend with Jesus.

-- by choosing the small.  Like stopping to listen to a friend who is feels troubled or sitting down with your child to read a book for no reason at all.

The soul longs to rest and refresh --

-- by being known.  connected and vulnerable with friends.

-- by being creative.  with a brush, pen, or guitar strings.

-- by resting in solitude. taking care of your body.

The soul of who we are is God's Beloved.

Intimacy & Rest

When Jesus finally arrived on earth to share the greatest Message anyone had ever known, Jesus choose to invest and spend His time with just 12 everyday, ordinary people. Jesus didn't spread His message in the synagogues and temples.  

Jesus focused on experiencing life with everyday people who didn't have any access to large venues or power structures. Jesus chose to be present in His everyday life. Jesus was real. 

When Jesus resurrected from the dead, He could have done a gazillion high profile things. Instead, Jesus went to a beach, made a fire and watched fish turn tender and warmed bread on hot stones to love on his weary-worn friends, discouraged with empty nets. 

He loved them by experiencing life with them. "Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest." (Mark 6:31) -- while He himself "often withdrew to the lonely places and prayed." (Luke 5:16).

Jesus longs for this intimacy with us.  

What are you letting come between you and experiencing life with God -- and others?

Let God love you. Today.

Make room to be present. As is. Take your rightful place with Him. Invited rather than driven.

In those quiet moments, something real and honest will flow out of you and me, transforming this world into a more beautiful place. Work will no longer be about striving.  Work will be transformed into a soulful expression of who we as people of faith, loved by God. 

We will no longer be lonely people. We will journey together by faith.

You are not a brand. You are Beloved.

"I will heal your wandering. I will love you freely.
You will be like dew to Israel, you will blossom like the lily..." Hosea 14:4  


How is God calling you to be His Beloved?

How is He inviting you experience life with Him -- instead of being driven to accomplish or produce?

Share a comment. This is a quiet space to stop and share the journey. 


By Bonnie Gray, the Faith Barista, serving up shots of faith in the daily grind. Bonnie is the soulful author of Finding Spiritual Whitespace: Awakening Your Soul To Rest, which has garnered starred review praise from Publisher’s Weekly. Bonnie writes for DaySpring (in)courage and her work has been spotlighted by Christianity Today, Relevant, Catalyst Leadership and she's been named in the Top 6 notable new religion authors. After graduating from UCLA, Bonnie served as a missionary, ministry entrepreneur, and Silicon Valley high-tech professional. She lives in Northern California with her husband, Eric, and their two sons.

 For inspiration to create space in your life to breathe, order a copy of Finding Spiritual Whitespace: Awakening Your Soul To Rest, which has garnered starred review praise from Publisher’s Weekly.  This memoir-driven guidebook for rest is for anyone longing for nurture their heart and draw closer to God. Learn how a life-long dream unexpectedly launched Bonnie into painful childhood memoires to discover a better story of rest. Visit TheBonnieGray.com to learn more. 

"Whitespace is soul grace. Bonnie Gray ushers weary women into the real possibility." - Ann Voskamp, NY Times bestsellng author of One Thousand Gifts

"If you want to hear Jesus speak more tenderly to your soul than ever befrore, this is the book for you." - Lysa TerKeurst, NY Times bestselling author of Unglued

"We live in a culture that brags and boasts about being busy. Into that reality steps Bonnie with a new idea.
Whitespace is an important concept and Bonnie has captured it perfectly. 
-Jon Acuff,NY  Times bestselling author of Start!

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