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.


Christianne said...

Wow, Sarah. So many questions! And so many dimensions to what you're working through with those questions.

For starters, I'm thrilled at what you experienced when you spoke to that roomfull of girls last week. I know the subject of grief is something dear to your hearts, and I know you to be an incredibly gentle, safe person. If there's anyone to offer a talk on grief to a room full of undergrad girls, it's you. I'm glad it was a freeing, life-giving experience for you, especially given experiences you've had otherwise in the past of speaking to people.

Kirk and I went to a discernment retreat this past weekend. A bunch of people gave talks about different aspects of discernment, and one of the speakers was a priest who spoke on the Ignatian approach to the discernment process. Since you spent a year working through the Ignatian exercises, and since you've completed an MA at ISF, you probably are quite familiar with this stuff, but what you wrote here and the questions you're asking reminded me a lot of what the guy said. He talked about finding your "more," or magis, which answers the question, "Which alternative is greater, more fulfilling, and more effective in respect to the good?" He shared the two criterion for discerning a big decision: does it result in greater fruitfulness for others, and does it result in greater spiritual consolation for yourself?

Not that you have to analyze these things right now or try to figure your way through them to an immediate decision, but the way you described some of the things that make you feel alive, both in writing and in speaking, brought his words to mind.

kirsten said...

so many questions, and i hear your heart in all of them. as i read what you wrote, i thought: yes, yes, and yes. that is sarah. we're seeing more of her, who she is, what her heart is about.

i'm one who is so good at telling others you don't need to have it all figured out now, but doesn't embody that truth for herself, but let me tell you sarah because i know it's true: you don't have to know what all those big, looming "other" things are right now, and even when you do, you do not have to do them perfectly. you will grow into yourself and your gifts and your calling and ... oooh, i can see it girl. i can see it, i'm telling you.

and it's glorious and amazing and beautiful.

power on, sister.

love you.

Sarah said...

Christianne--Thanks for seeing me here. I love how you always pause to do that...it's reassuring, somehow. I feel loved ;)

And I really hadn't thought about Ignatian discernment here...I think it always seems too easy in the, "Really? I can have what I WANT?" sort of way. And because, when I look at it that way, what I want seems fairly easy to discern. Putting it into actions? Now that's harder...

Kirsten--I found so much rest reading your words. It's good to remember that I don't have to figure it all out right this moment (must as I'd like to...). When you put it all the way you did, I feel like I can hold the "Yes!" with the part that's still becoming and it's all ok.

Christianne said...

I keep imagining you starting small and informally. Like, offering a short retreat for a small group of people on grief or some other such subject that is stirring your heart. You could offer it for free and on a small scale, just to start getting some experience doing this. Then you not only get to do the thing you love, learn a lot from the experiences as you go along, start now (figuratively speaking), and still be growing in experience.

I'd totally come to a low-key retreat that you offered as a test run. :)

The Gyrovague said...


I would say just start speaking to those you know about what you know, then let the Lord lead. Don't over plan it at first, and just walk in the path God has for you. Remember the proverbs words about "Man lays the plans, but God grants the increase."

I am exited for you.

Sarah said...

Christianne--I have to admit, I've been NOT coming over here because your suggestion makes it all sound so...real. It's like (and this really has got to be the LONGEST analogy I could come up with for how I feel ;)) something big that's fallen out of the sky and I'm afraid to look at it straight-on because I really don't want to have to deal with the possibility of aliens, so I leave it sitting there and walk around it.

At the same time, it would be such...not "fun" exactly, though that too...bah, can't find the word I want. It would be such *something* to do that, to start small without the pressure or any of that...and it's less scary today than it was yesterday!

Carl--thanks...your excitement helps me feel less afraid! And you know, I always struggle with wondering how much I should do and how much God should do. I've heard people with good arguments go all sorts of different directions, and most of it confuses me. The current plan is to ask for guidance and hope I recognize it when it comes ;)