Writing is an odd world of contradictions.
Three months ago I decided not to write. It was not a writing issue. It was a life and death issue. There was no food in the house.
I might have gone to the grocery store and solved the problem there, if not for the ten family members coming to spend the month with us. For three months, I shopped, cooked, drove children here and there, helped pack and unpack suitcases, traveled to Tennessee, and taught math workshops. We survived. And I survived.
I quit writing, and I survived. If you had asked me in April, “What would you do if you couldn’t write?” I would have told you, “Die.” I would have killed myself to prove the point. But here I am, a survivor…alive…not having written a paragraph in three months.
Unexpected things happen when you’re working to survive. For one solid year I wrote up a storm, a literal storm. I wrote about family, being lonely, about writing, and about God. Some of my best pieces were prayers to God, extended prayers of supplication, God, make me a writer, and make me a humble writer. I really meant the humble part. I had a serious tendency to think I was hot stuff, and it seemed dangerous to let this flaw go untethered, reeking havoc on planet Earth. God could fix it.
He succeeded. So much so, that as I sit here at the computer, I am held back from typing by the realization that everything worth saying was said 2,000 years ago. And who’s listening? What do I have to say? How could I ever add to the life of a perfect man who chose to go to the cross as a love gift for me and all of mankind?
I’ve got things to write. But more than that, God seems to point me toward things to do. I have difficulty thinking any page of words will accomplish more than what I can do with my two hands on a Saturday afternoon at a food kitchen.
I reach out to writers of influence hoping to catch the power of their words. King David in his 23rd Psalm has given courage and comfort to countless men and women. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John each preserved the life of Jesus and sealed the witness of the apostles who gave their lives for me. Paul carried God’s offer of reconciliation and His promise of salvation down thousands of miles of dusty roads, leaving behind his enduring words of encouragement and exhortation.
I sit in awe of the power and majesty contained in the words of believers in Christ. Bonheiffer, John Henry Jowett, St. Francis of Assisi, Thomas a Kempis, Fulton Sheen, Basilea Schlink, Mother Teresa. These are the lives of people who have earned the right to speak in words. Because their actions speak louder.
Here I sit, a whiney, demanding, lazy, cowardly believer, my belly full, cooled by refrigeration, and my day secure enough for me to dawdle at the keyboard. What can I possibly write of significance?
God has definitely whittled me down to size. Now, with time on my hands to write, I struggle to think of an idea worthy of His confidence. In May, I wanted to write the book that would reach millions, the words that would explain the depth of God’s love with such persuasion that atheists would stop in their tracks and look up to the sky with an open heart. I wanted to write for world peace. Cure social injustice. Give loving homes to tiny babies before anyone could abort them.
Several months later in August, I shake my head at my audacity. I laugh at my pathetic ego. I cringe in embarrassment, afraid to read any of my essays written in headier days. What can I possibly write? How can I hope to touch the heart of one human being, when I’m painfully aware of my own need for improvement?
I prayed, God make me a writer, make me a humble writer. He has succeeded. And now the humility is so complete, I sit immobilized, afraid to be a writer, ever.
While the hopelessness of the situation grows, I stare through the computer screen, through the lamp’s reflection behind the words on the glossy white, past the bits and bytes inside the monitor, and out through the wall of the office into space. If I hold that thought and close my eyes, I can barely make out the shadow of one person. And, looking closely, I can just make out the empty space in their chest where a heart should be, a hole, a hurt that explains the droop of their shoulders and the quiet splash of a tear at their feet. Don’t leave Shadowchild. I think I share your pain. If you will be patient with me, perhaps I can write an honest thought with enough clarity so that you will recognize yourself in me. If we sit together and read a true and loving line, perhaps we can fill our own empty space with the love of the other, and maybe together we can reach out to pull just one more shadowchild into our circle.
If God approves, I think I could write to at least one person. That’s the least I can hope for. And the most.
RETURN to LOOKING FOR SIGNS OF LAND
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