Eighteen hours on the road yesterday through five states. As I sit here, my body feels as if it’s still in motion.
One positive about long road trips, however, is the mental processing time one has. And after several intense days, it was nice to have the quiet space to reflect.
Emotions often can run raw for many at conferences like ACFW. Writers work hard and then have only a couple of fifteen-minute appointments to share what they’ve poured their heart and soul into for months or years.
The waiting area outside the appointment rooms can be filled with tension. However, I think the longer one puts one’s self in this arena, the more we realize that God is in control of the outcome. And if we don’t say our seven-word hook exactly right, the foundations of the world will not shake. Still, it’s challenging because sometimes it feels that way.
As I took a seat to wait for my appointment on Saturday morning, I noticed a young woman behind me crying. I moved to her side, and discovered she could hardly speak. She handed me her bio, and I read how she’d struggled with a speech impediment and overcome it. Under stress, many times these things will again rear their heads. And with her impending appointment, her ability to speak became compromised. I asked if I could pray for her, and afterwards tried to lighten the mood a bit by telling her crazy mistakes I’d made at conferences.
I don’t know if I told her this one or not, but one premier example is after I wrote my first novel, I made five or six copies of the manuscript and took them with me to a conference, sure every editor I spoke with would want a copy. I blush to think about it.
First, no editor is going to lug a manuscript back home in a suitcase. Two, it was my first novel. Enough said.
After awhile of hearing about my looney stuff, my new friend recovered and went off laughing to face the lions.
Many folks who’ve worked hard will face disappointments in the next few months. They’ll send off their requested materials and receive a prompt rejection. Some will never hear-- their submissions fading away into cyber space.
A friend who’s a contributing editor at a national magazine says, “If you can do anything but write, you’d better do it.” The reason for her statement is it’s hard to stay the course if you don’t sense God’s calling.
Honestly, I would do something else if I could. But, I can’t stop writing. Today, after an intense conference in which I battled through an infection, and driving eighteen hours yesterday, I should be resting. But I’m not. Here I sit tapping away.
The disappointments don’t stop me. The rejections don’t stop me. What other people say doesn’t stop me. Believe me, I’ve threatened to quit. As Joyce Meyer points out in her message on faithfulness, I don’t really mean it. Besides, what would I go back to? I’m an art major, but no painting I’ve ever done pulls at me like the words percolating in my head. I’m a musician, but when I write a song, I write the lyrics first.
At a workshop I attended, my new pearl friend that I wrote about a few days ago, presented with such eloquence and passion. At one point, I saw her jaw quivering, and I knew exactly how she felt as she spoke of how hard it was to be established as a writer. She said, “When an editor asked me if I’d revise a manuscript, I‘d reply of course. If they asked if I could do if fast, I’d say, yes, I can.” At every juncture, she poured herself into the process and after thirty-six books made the New York Times Bestseller List. Thirty-six books.
I’d call that faithfulness.
Madeleine L’engle said writers should serve their gift. God has entrusted us with it, and we don’t complain about the size of it, large or small, we simply serve it. Trying to be faithful. “…it takes considerable time and energy and considerable pain to give birth to even the most minor of stories. The life of the artist is as much a life of discipline as that of the physician or the missionary. It makes incredibly austere and difficult demands. Are you willing to make the sacrifice? …if you feel that you are called, then I can promise you great joy as well as conflict and pain…The unending paradox is that we learn through pain.”
And that my friends, is the key—that we allow God to teach us through the pain of disappointment and heartache—that I allow God to teach me.
A recent song by Laura Story has encouraged me more than I can say. Called, “Blessings,” she paints a picture of what God wants to do through all our disappointments. May we all hear it and respond with renewed commitment to stay the course to whatever road God has called us.
"Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don't try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way" (James 1:2-3 The Message).