Pronunciation Guide

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The light’s growing bright…further up, further in

February 25th, 2008.

The first day of a thirty day fast for the youth group [and youth leaders] at my church.
We could fast from whatever we wanted, whatever we felt we should; didn’t have to be food or anything.

I fasted from the one thing I was most terrified to let go of, for any amount of time…did the one thing that I was quite sure would kill me.

…I gave up writing.

And when I say I gave up writing, I don’t mean just the act of writing my stories. I mean even thinking about my stories [because if I thought, I’d get ideas, and I couldn’t write them].

When I do not write for a period of time, I am not right. I wilt. I grow increasingly restless, desperate. I ache. I feel like part of me is literally dying. Giving it up for thirty days was truly one of the hardest things I’d ever done; it felt like my soul was being ripped from me.

Back then, I was convinced that God didn’t want me to be happy, didn’t like that I found so much pleasure in writing. I truly believed that if I loved something else besides him [not more than him, just in addition to him], he would take the loved thing away. I went into the fast hoping and praying for a clear answer to the question, “God, do you want me to write, or not?” When I gave up writing for those thirty days, I felt no assurance that it wouldn’t be forever. In a large part of my heart, I tried to prepare myself for what I feared most: That he wouldn’t give writing back when the fast was over.

…And that…was…absolutely terrifying.

…Obviously, I came through the fast, and continued writing. I did not get the clear answer I wanted, not then. So I did all I knew to do --- kept writing…and kept hoping it wasn’t wrong and that he wouldn’t snatch it away and thereby destroy me.

…I’m writing about this because my mom and I talked about it yesterday --- how I used to cling so tightly to writing, how I was so petrified to lay it down before God. I don’t know if I actually mentioned the fast yesterday, but it was in my head if nothing else.

I have changed. Part of it is maturing, growing older, I’m sure. But a larger part is that my trust in God is greater now than it was then. [At least in some areas!]

I once clung so tightly to my stories that, spiritually, my knuckles were pure white. In fact, my entire hands were pure white. I held writing so close to my chest that I began to suffocate it. I watched God out of the corner of my eye, readying myself to run should he make one move to take writing away.

Now that I look back on this, I kind of think that he wasn’t ever really going to take it away. [I mean, maybe had I resisted long enough and made it into an idol, he would have…but it didn’t get to that point.] He just stood there, hand outstretched, eyes on me…waiting for me to give it to him.

…Give it BACK to him.
And so then he…could give it back to me.

I don’t think he ever wanted to take it away for good, like I feared. He has been testing me for years with this, much like he tested Abraham when it came to Isaac. [Genesis 22] He knew I’d surrender, that I’ll continue to surrender; he already knew that he is most important. But he wanted to show me what is in my own heart, because I needed to see. And I still need to see.

…I do not even know how many stories I have started and stopped. I do not even know how much time I have spent on things that I will probably never use. …But there is nothing lost in hard work, and yes, I have worked hard. Writing may not yet be a job for me where I get paid for it…but it IS work. And so, in God, everything is redeemed. Everything is used. Nothing is wasted.

And even my elf story --- one of the few I have clung to more fiercely than the others --- I have laid it down and stepped away. …As I told my mom yesterday, I am honestly at peace if I never finish it. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to finish it, and if God wants me to, I definitely will. I still love the story, still love the characters, and I would be sad if it remained unfinished and/or unpublished.

But…it could be that that story --- and every story I’ve ever started --- has led me to now. Maybe the elf story was never meant to be anything…except for me --- for my healing, my growth, my encouragement. Maybe all of the work I’ve put into stories, and characters, and maps, and backstories…was all to teach me how to do it so I could write THIS current story. And maybe one day I will go back to the others, and finish some of them. Or maybe not.

My writing is a gift. Somehow that phrase has taken on a prideful connotation in the Christian culture --- which is silly. As if I am the reason I have been given a gift. I truly have no more claim to it than I can claim to have made myself short, or to have given myself blue eyes, stubby toes, and straight hair that refuses to hold a curl. It just…IS. I didn’t do it; it is dumb to take pride in it and think I am something special because of it. [Though, admittedly, sometimes I do. He’s killing that in me too.] Now, I have sought to cultivate it over the years, to increase the natural gifting by using it and honing it, yes…but the gift of writing is just that --- a gift from God.

A gift from God…given to me for HIS purposes, not mine.

I say that writing is me. And this is true; in the core of my being, I am a writer. I was made that way. But writing is also not me. I am more than just a writer. If God did take writing away, even today…I would still be here. I might be a little lost for a while, because so much of myself and my time goes to writing, and it is so intricately a part of my personality…but ultimately, I would not lack anything --- for he would fill me. God could use me even if every writing ability and story idea was gone. HE makes me what I am, not writing.

Even if I become a New York Times Bestseller, even if someone makes movies out of my books, even if everyone knows my name and even how to pronounce it…if, on the road to “success”, I left God behind…I have lost everything. Everything worth anything. I will have gained nothing but air --- something fleeting, temporal, and impossible to hold on to. And at the very least, I will have forfeited what could have been --- something that would have lasted for eternity.

I want to make an impact. I want to change the world. I want to be completely used up. I want to fulfill my purpose, my destiny, my call. I don’t want to arrive safely at eternity, having hoarded and resisted and barely made it through the fire. No, I want to come screaming to a halt, skid several feet forward onto my face at his feet…with scars, wounds…and a train of people in my wake. I want to be able to say, “God, I have nothing left; I used everything you gave me.” I don’t want to miss an opportunity. I don’t want to waste my life. I don’t want to make excuses, or give him provisos. I don’t want to say, “I’ll do anything, God, but don’t make me do ______, or go _____.” I don’t want to cling to writing, or anything else --- and I can’t. If I put my faith in anything besides God…that faith WILL be shaken, and I will fall.

I don’t want to become “successful” in the world’s eyes…and miss true success in God’s eyes. I don’t want to make money, and disregard souls in the process. I don’t want to write the story that will sell millions…I want to write a story that will lead to the saving of millions. And if it sells millions too, well…then that is up to God. My role in this is to obey, not strive. To write the story that he has branded on my heart, period.

A story of redemption.
A story that he must lead…because I am in uncharted territory.

Exactly where I want --- and need --- to be.

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