Rome wasn’t built in a day, the saying goes. Big accomplishments always start small. But sometimes it’s hard to accept my smallness when I’ve got my eyes on others’ bigness. And it’s easy to stop taking steps forward when we don’t know exactly where we’re going. Growth hurts. Is it worth the pain?
I’m struggling with writing right now. Actually, I’ve struggled with writing my whole life. Since I was sixteen years old, I have felt led to write and, quite frankly, I have avoided writing except for academic purposes. Every journal I’ve ever kept, I’ve burned. I love to write. I’ve just been terrified of putting heart and soul on paper for fear some other might actually read my heart and soul on paper. Something deep inside me bubbles up and starts flowing life when I write, but opening up the deep—well, that can be quite frightening for me, thinking of what others might think. When heart and soul ink penetrates paper, it’s like standing naked in a public square and hoping to God people don’t laugh or, worse, turn away in disgust. And why would someone want to bare themselves for people to see anyway? I’m a turtle. I like my safe shell.
But what if God is calling for a baring? What if God has plans? I know God has plans. He always does. But why do they have to involve my baring heart and soul? Why do they have to involve being vulnerable and stretching out like on a cross where others might nail me straight through?
And it’s just the stepping out in faith part that really bugs me. Do I have faith that God will guide and protect? Why can’t God show me where He’s taking me and why? I laugh at myself because I already KNOW the answers. It’s just LIVING OUT the answers that’s tough.
I know God well enough to know that He wants me to write. He keeps encouraging me in numerous ways, especially when I say I’ve had it and I’m hanging it up. And I know that one of the reasons why God wants me to write is because I have always had an issue with expression. My friends and family who know me well might be surprised by such an admission, but it’s true.
I grew up in a family whose mantra was, “Children are to be seen and not heard.” They actually said this out loud repeatedly while I was growing up. And whenever I would express an opinion, I was told that no one cared what I thought so I might as well save my breath. Do you suppose these messages might have shut me up just a bit? When I became a Christian and had Holy Spirit boldness, I discovered that some people wanted to hear me even less because they didn’t know God or value His voice. So I turned my voice to academics. I started writing papers.
I was blessed to have outstanding writing mentors in high school and they encouraged me to keep writing. By the time I graduated from high school, I had written several lengthy research papers making all future paper writing easy, except for my doctoral dissertation which nearly killed me and still gives me nightmares because I dream it isn’t finished though I really did finish it 17 years ago! And just to be factual and not bragging, I never received less than an A on a paper—ever—from high school through six years of a doctoral program, including the dreaded dissertation which received high honors. It’s just a gift God gave me.
Writing has always been a joy for me. Words come easy and fast. But I can be perfectionistic when I start worrying what others will think—how others will view what I write. I’m not so worried about writing critique on mechanics or style as I am about content. Surely, no writing is perfect and there are always ways to improve skill. With academic papers, I do my best, enjoy the process, welcome critique, and don’t get too invested in the outcome personally. Why can’t I do the same when writing from my heart instead of my head? The answer is obvious to me. Writing from the head isn’t as risky as writing from the heart. And I’m fairly risk-avoidant with writing unless I’m being pulled along.
God is pulling me gently but I’m like a turtle hiding and clinging to my shell shouting, “NO! I don’t WANT to come out! PLEASE leave me ALONE! Go away! It’s safe in here and it’s scary out there!” I’ve spent years closing the door of my shell with me—the heart and soul of me—on the inside.
Laughing now, I see how pointless it is for a turtle to argue with God. If God wants to out something—or someone—He will. But He is ever so tender and patient.
Let’s see. I’m going to turn 54 on August 2 and I’ve felt God’s call to write since I was 16. Doing the math—a very scary exercise for me—my calculations show that for 38 years I have stayed in my shell fairly successfully with maybe my nose peeking out every now and then—at least on paper, that is.
So when it became abundantly clear two years ago that God was done being patient and that I had better start putting heart and soul on paper or I would not be following His lead . . .
I VERY reluctantly said . . .
“Do I have to? Would you just give me ONE more sign?”
I guess I was expecting to get crushed like bug or something, which I would have welcomed rather than having to write heart and soul on paper, but God didn’t squash me. He encouraged me once more with several people in a row telling me, “You should write a book!” after I had talked about part of my life story.
Blah! Blah! Blah! “You should write a book!” has followed me for 38 years and rings through my head like an annoying tinnitus.
I can’t write a book! I’m not a writer! Well, I’ve been sitting comfortably on this couch for two years now, having defined myself as a blogger, not a writer. And now I’m sensing God pulling me off the couch! And I’m not too happy about this! Even though I’m no couch potato in every other area of my life, I would really like to remain a couch potato in the area of writing. I’m comfortable now with blogging, even though I said “NO!” to that for a time, with the excuse that I’m a techno-idiot, which is true, but appararently not a sufficient excuse for GOD. So, I stepped out in faith two years ago and now I actually know what a blog IS and I actually know how to POST something and it has become easy and fun. Blogging is like waltzing around in a flowing chiffon evening gown like Ginger with Fred. Sigh! I get to dance with God when I blog!
Why does the word “blog”, used as a verb, sound like “vomit” or “hurl” or some other less-than-appealing term? Just a side thought . . .
But I guess God wants me to get off the couch and change into something a bit more rugged than a chiffon evening gown. So my soul keeps telling me, and all my friends and family keep saying, in so many words, “DUH! Isn’t it OBVIOUS by now that you should write?”
Well, yes, but I don’t WANT to!
Because I don’t know HOW!
And I need HELP!
And I prayed for HELP and along comes this woman from cyberspace named Leslie Leyland Fields and she lives on some remote fishing island in Alaska and she writes books and gets them published and she writes columns for Christianity Today and they print them and circulate them and she’s an editor and she’s a writing professor and . . .
She encouraged me and I’m going to Alaska in August, after my 54th birthday, to learn from her. Will she help me stop writing all these run-on sentences and take a breath so the one person in the world who might read my writing can take a breath too? Why am I going? WHERE am I going?
Honestly, I feel like Abraham right now. I feel like God is telling me to leave Ur and follow Him and I don’t know where we’re going. I’m going to Alaska but where the heck is that? Is it close to Ur? Or Canaan? I’ve never been there though I’ve heard it is like a Promised Land. But I have heard no promise spoken over me except that God is calling me out of my shell and to a place far away and He has promised me His presence.
Where am I going? I don’t know. God knows. All I need to know is God. All I need to do is trust God. And I suppose, if God wants me to come out of my shell, I’ll come. And He will protect all the tender parts I think still need a shell. Because maybe the tender parts just really need Him? Maybe I might move more freely and lightly without a shell? Maybe I’ll travel to glorious spaces with the glorious God who wants to take me on a journey to places I’ve never seen and explore ground I’ve never walked? Maybe God wants to grow me and fill me in ways I can’t even imagine? Maybe the smallest of fruits is not done growing and must keep abiding so that it will plump up sweet and feed others goodness?
I went out to prune my grapevines yesterday and noticed they are already full of fruit. The tiniest grapes are all over the vines! My most close-range lens helped me bring the wonder of God to you. Here they are, these perfectly formed, gorgeous little grapes, just doing what they’re made to do . . .
These tiny little grapes are clinging to their vine, soaking up the sun, growing day-by-day, not worrying about how big they’re going to get, not comparing themselves to any other variety, just abiding and growing and filling up with the goodness of God so they can fill others one day with the goodness of God.
Oh Lord! Help me be a grape not a turtle! Keep me growing and filling and feeding instead of hiding. Help me God to follow wherever you lead, even if it’s to ALASKA where there is no running water and I’m worried that I might have to machete all my curls when I’m done because a comb will never get through this jungle again without a washing every other day and . . .
what if I get swallowed . . .
by a . . .
I guess the only way I’ll get swallowed by a whale is if I keep running away from God like someone else I know whose name begins with a “J”. He didn’t want to express either.
OK. I guess I’m ready to be a grape—small as I am—instead of a turtle because I’d rather be consumed by a human than by a whale.
Draw me out, O LORD, and lead me wherever you will. Take me by the hand, and the heart, and lead me on! I’m ready, though still shaking, for adventure.