18 November 2008


You know how sometimes you think and think and think on something and in the end you still can't quite see it because...well, because you can't SEE it? That's how I feel, like it's time to make all of this more real. So here it is.

I'm beginning to wonder if God has more for me than just writing.

At the end of last week, I spoke to a group of undergrad girls about grief and loss. Not the most...um...winsome of topics and kind of a long story about how I got there speaking on that, but overall a positive experience nonetheless. Usually I start shaking when I speak, and I didn't. Usually I care a lot about how I came across, and I didn't. Usually I feel a deep responsibility that the people I'm talking to really get what I'm trying to say, but this time I felt like I could speak the words I had and let them be received however and leave knowing that I'd done my job. Overall, it was really, really cool.

After that experience, though, I couldn't deny some of the thoughts that have been creeping up on me since I started thinking about this whole writing thing seriously. The thing I keep coming back to is this: I won't be happy just putting words on paper.

For me, the writing that's most life-giving isn't about me putting words on paper. It's not even about me being creative, though I love the fact that I get to be creative when I write. It's about communication, about getting to give other people ideas in ways that might help them see what's true. It's about giving love and grace and growth to hearts that need it. It's about synthesis and packaging things differently than they've been done before and making metaphors that lead others to a deeper understanding. I LOVE writing those things, and I really don't love writing much else. Now, I have a pretty broad understanding of those things I love, but there are still definitely categories of things that don't fit.

And the thing is, speaking to those girls the other day led to similar feelings. It wasn't the same as writing, but I left that small auditorium feeling more full and content and satisfied than I feel when I think about writing articles I don't care about or advertising copy that's supposed to get people to spend their money whether they have it or not.

So I'm beginning to wonder about speaking, about leading retreats and small groups in addition to my writing, about how that would look and how I'd ever get something like that started.

The truth is, I've been resisting some of the parts of the writing career I keep saying I want. I keep wondering why I'm not querying as many editors as I can or approaching more companies about hiring me as a copywriter. And the answer to those wonders seems to be that my heart feels like going after those things would still sell it short. If I'm going to go after my dreams, it says, why not go all out? Why stop at being self-employed when there's really more that I want to do?

"Money," is the first thing that comes to mind, for a lot of different reasons. There's a lot in there--validation, success, and the fact that I can spend more time writing if I can make a living at it, for starters. And there's some truth to that--money is some indication of how many people I'm reaching and how deeply they're being reached. At the same time, I have a decent job that doesn't usually stress me to my limits. If there's a better place to start something when you're not sure where the money will come from, I don't know of one. And money is just money...making more of it doing something that doesn't make me happy won't in itself make me happy.

And then there's the desire to not be pigeon-holed as a Christian. I mean, I am a Christian and I don't mind people knowing that, but I think that I have things to say that can touch non-Christian people as well, and maybe even lead them to a relationship with Christ. I want to be able to say those things and be heard, not stuck in a corner with the other Christians. Many of the things I want to say are Christian-ish or Christian-ly but they don't all apply just to Christians, and I really don't want to wrap myself up in the Christian box and tape down the lid.

And it all sounds so hard. If what I can almost see is really where I'm going, it's quite a trek to get there. Really? That mountain? Are you sure? Because the little foothill I was thinking about before seems plenty big for me. I fear I'll only get halfway, that I'll wander around and get distracted and lost, or that I just won't be up to it and will have to come down in defeat. I wonder if God remembers who he's dealing with here, who she is and what she can do and what she's good at. And part of me dreads the journey. I don't like being wet and cold and stumbling over boulders any more than the next person.

All my mind can do in response to these new thoughts is to generate questions. What does this all mean? Is the call to forego some of the "easier" ways to make money as a writer and put myself fully into this...whatever it is? Does it mean (and this is scary!) that the call isn't just to be a writer but to start a ministry? How do you even DO that? What would all of this do to the timing I want and what would it mean for Dave and the future and everything else? And how long is it going to take me to figure this all out, already?

And thus I'm in a swirl...excited and scared and hopeful and confused, all at once. I feel like I can't even look at it straight-on yet, like I'm seeing something out of the corner of my eye that would be fantastic if it all worked out but I'm not quite ready to give myself to it. Sure, I don't have to figure it all out right now, but I want to. I've gone haring down so many paths in the last couple of years and I'm ready for the one that's really mine. It kind of sucks to feel such intense fear of and desire for something; then again, maybe that's just part of the process.

12 November 2008

the grateful ache

Sometimes my lungs can't find enough air. Sometimes it feels like half of my heart stopped working.

As the days between today and my move venture further from distant future and closer toward imminent reality, as my state of health continues to be volatile and unpredictable, and as I attune myself to interior shifts in my own heart, I've felt increasingly like I just want to give up. I want to take a big cloak of black by the corners, tuck my knees and my chin in toward my chest, cover myself, and be done. No more trying, no more fighting just to keep my head above water. Just stopping, sinking, being swallowed by cool black water. Nothing.

Prayers and tears are simultaneous now, and have been for months. I can't remember the last time I experienced one without the other. The tension that exists between the faith I have that God is good and will deliver on His promises and the overwhelming feeling that He's holding out on me is almost too much. I wonder how much further that tension can be pulled. I've prayed and wondered aloud if God is taking things from me in order to prepare me for future blessing. I'm scared to examine this hope too closely for fear that it will prove false and send me reeling. So I drop it from my hand, wiping my palm brusquely to remove any trace evidence that I held that thought at all.

I feel trapped. I know God too well to doubt His reality and His active presence, but in my own worldly estimation of this situation, I can't see that He's up to much at all. On the days these thoughts and feelings are at the height of their poignancy, I cover myself in layers of numbness so that it does not look like I'm falling apart.

But I still pray. I return to prayers of deliverance from time to time, even though I have little hope they will receive the answer I desire most. I've been asking for what I can see of Him in this place, what I can learn, knowing that these things may not be evident until there is a span of some physical, emotional, and chronological distance between a then I cannot envision and the now that threatens to cripple my heart.

My prayers have gotten a bit crazier, and perhaps what I'm about to share is evidence that my sanity is something less than intact. I've been thanking Him for these things. Opening my hands and asking to learn contentment. I'm thanking Him that though I feel shredded now, He can and will use this. I'm thanking Him because this wouldn't be happening if it wasn't for my own good and for the good of His kingdom. I'm thanking Him because He's present and because I believe Jesus knows exactly what this feels like. I'm thanking Him for how this is shaping me, even though I feel like an amorphous blob right now.

There are a lot of tears with these prayers. The words catch in my throat; I can barely think them without my eyes becoming red-rimmed and wet. But I don't know what else to do. He's not changing the circumstances, so I'm asking Him to change me.

Have mercy, Lord Jesus.