How Being “Relevant” Eludes Me


This is my view at my bistro table on the porch where I do a lot of my thinking, reading and writing.

One of my biggest challenges as a creative type is that of being “relevant” with my content. I fail at relevance on at least two counts, but I still want to believe what I say matters.

Relevance Fail #1

My first and most obvious failure to be relevant is related to what a theologian reportedly taught his students: to examine life with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other. I’m sure that is brilliant, but, as my mother would say, “it’s not my gift.”

Maybe it should be my gift. But it isn’t.

The thing is, it takes me a long time to consume media and truly process it in such a way to be able to say or write something meaningful about it:

  • In my 30+ years of exposure to the Bible, I still have only begun to scratch the surface.
  • I still listen to music that I got in my teens and early twenties–not because I’m afraid to try new music, but because I’m still avidly enjoying the old stuff.
  • There are books that I read 10 and 20 years ago that I am just now mining for deeper insights than ever before–I’m nowhere near finished processing them.

I’m still dwelling on ancient holy writings, vintage music, and books from yesteryear. Shallow treatment of ideas, texts or other media is not in my nature. As an introvert I go deep with each source rather than branching widely into numerous outlets.

I’m not saying I ignore current events. Don’t get me wrong. It’s just that my brain won’t hold pages and pages of the latest news on top of everything else I am still processing.

In my human limitations I have to pick and choose the sources with which I go deep and those that I skim over or ignore. If I ever seem aloof, it is because my brain is deeply engaged in mulling over old information instead of absorbing the latest tidbits.

I fail at relevance because I don’t react to current events in a timely & meaningful way.

Relevance Fail #2

The other way that relevance eludes me is just in general trying to figure out what my readers (or potential readers) want to read and being able to deliver it.

I mean, I have a ton of ideas about what I want to write about. But I just never know what’s going to resonate with people.

I know other bloggers have dealt with this too, the idea that something you think is brilliant gets only a cool reception whereas something you just dash off quickly gets shared all over the place.

This is also a struggle for me because what I’m doing on the blog is, at least in part, a coming of age. Much of what is here is just me blabbing about my issues, my preoccupations, my fear of being irrelevant, etc. I want this space to be for us, but many times I need it to be for me.

So, I fail at relevance again because my content ends up being more self-serving than might be helpful. And when I try to be helpful to others, I’m still uncertain what to write about.

Reason to Hope

It’s possible, despite my relevance-challenges, that what I write and say can still matter:

  • The very depth with which I engage media actually serves me well in providing troves of ideas for what to write about. My constant thinking and processing of old information often leads to creative insights in the here and now.
  • Even though I’m not always quite sure what my readers need, I am listening. I may not be relevant by nature, but I am very relational. By being where people are and engaging with them I get a better sense of what they need.

What has been really cool is that since I started blogging and writing more I’ve been having more interesting conversations. Once I started putting my ideas out there and offering my two cents on just whatever I have gotten into great discussions with folks.

I’m finding new depths of engagement with people–even those I know best in my life. Just by putting myself out here in some way I have become more incarnational, more present to people.

Even if I am still processing old information and tossing around my own personal baggage, I’m here.

I’m showing up and making myself available. And I’m pretty sure that matters.

9 responses to this post.

  1. Showing up is half the battle! 😉 Just remember Mary Magdalene is the Saint of ‘Showing UP”.. 🙂 Thk Pr. Nadia for that one.

  2. Oooh, I can relate to a lot of what you said here. Thanks for bringing *you* here to this space.

  3. […] Jennifer Clark Tinker has a cool mind, and I love the way she processes whether she’s relevant (and whether or not that even matters). Loved her illustration about music! It’s freeing. […]

  4. Posted by Dawn on December 13, 2013 at 3:37 pm

    I love this post. I always have struggled with not being able to be on top of current events because I tend to look towards understanding my own life before I look at others. I have found that looking at others sometimes makes me strive for things that are not realistic expectations to hold myself to. I have always struggled with feeling self centered because I want to only focus on my own short comings or follow my passions even if that means I am not doing things like everyone else around me. I think that this can be true when I ignore others around me but usually it is not that I am ignoring, but that my mind can only process properly when I set my focus completely on what I am pursuing. This post has encouraged me to be hopeful that focusing on my thoughts and struggles is something that can allow me to have a deeper life than if I didn’t allow myself the time to do so. Thanks.

  5. Posted by Robin Hood on December 14, 2013 at 10:37 am

    Relevant is an overused catchword. I hear more about what people really need is genuineness. I mean, everytime I read something online about what the church needs to do, it always something like, actually talk about problems, and the deeper issues everyone struggles with. That’s what would actually be relevant to everyone–something real, behind the facade churches often use to attract.

    For example I was talking to somebody recently about this thing I was struggling with, and she said to me, how can you be a christian, when you have this going on in your life? Like i should leave the church when i have a problem with some part of the church. Churches are bad at dealing with conflicts, too. I know people who still haven’t come back to our church after having a problem with a pastor who has moved on to other churches many years ago.

    • Life is messy–even for Christians, and even for churches. Figuring out our way through the mess with honesty and grace is our best hope for not mucking things up any worse–and maybe, just maybe being able to bless each other in the midst of it!

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