“Lord, show me what I should be doing next in my life.”
I recently posted that heartfelt cry on my Facebook Author page. Several big projects and life events had met closure over the summer. My calendar and white board stood blank. Nice feeling, but what was next, I asked myself. What was God’s will for me?
I’m contemplating a new writing project, one that might take a year to complete. I have no guarantee of success or publication. So I have been asking myself, “Is this how God wants me to use my time?”
After posting that prayer on Facebook, I spent a good part of that day praying and pleading with God, What do YOU want me to do? Should I write this book?
Midday, it hit me. God is concerned not so much with what I do but how I live while doing it. To quote what I’ve told my two daughters many times over a failed batch of cookies or a craft project gone awry, “It’s the process, not the product.” Or, as other people say, “It’s the journey, not the destination.”
Whatever I choose to do, I realized I need to do the three following things:
1. Honor Christ through the process. If I write the book I’m contemplating, I need to consistently lift up my Lord in what I write. In other words, I get to choose the subject matter – as long as I’m doing it for Him and His Kingdom, not for my own advancement or ambition. More than that, I will look for ways to minister and serve other people who intersect my life because of this project – research sources, editors, my agent, other writers, and my fans, friends and family. God’s will, as stated in Scripture, is that, as His ambassador, wherever I go I will represent Him well. I won’t allow my writing to turn me into a green eyed monster to my husband or close friends! I will be willing to lay my writing aside for any temporary assignment God calls me to do.
God is so wonderful! His purposes for my writing are far beyond seeing my words through to the printed page or a digital format. Once, when I was in the middle of writing a magazine article about children’s homes, a mother in our church came to me for counsel about her daughter. Remembering the success stories about equestrian therapy programs I had heard about from the children’s homes directors I interviewed, I asked the mother if she had considered equestrian therapy for her daughter. A local program proved to be a wonderful help. If I hadn’t been writing that story, I wouldn’t have been able to share that resource. If I had only focused on my writing, not allowing myself to stop for a cup of tea with this mom, I couldn’t have shared this resource either.
2. Pray about each part of the process. Whatever I choose to do, I need to partner with God’s Holy Spirit, bringing every aspect of the project before His throne. I need to pray about EVERYTHING!
Hey, we pray about lost car keys and available parking lot spaces. Why shouldn’t I pray for God’s leading to research material, strength and motivation on a day I don’t feel well physically, or help in wording a finicky sentence? More and more, I’m learning I need to involve God in everything I do, even in the mundane. That’s not weakness, that’s discipleship.
Every moment, I need to let my Lord know I want Him involved in my life, that He is indeed my business Partner.
3. Be willing to learn and grow in whatever I do. Remember? It’s the process – not the product! As I write, I need to ask, Lord, what do You want me to learn about You? About myself? About other people and how I relate to them? About the world at large and how much our sin-sick and sin-tainted society needs the healing touch of Jesus?
This is hard for me. Can I devote myself to a project of this magnitude just for my own growth? Isn’t that selfish? Actually, the process of learning and growing will sculpt me into a better person, one whom Christ can use even more for the good of His Kingdom. My created work may never influence the lives of others, but God’s creation – me – will, no matter what level of success my book reaches. Since I desire to serve Christ above all, then I should be willing to place myself under the skill of the Potter’s hand to mold me and make me into the perfect design He has for me – even if it is through the writing of a book.
With the project I have in mind, I will need to do some self examination, some exploration of how I handle and react e certain aspects of life. One of the themes of the book is fear – if the thing I fear most actually happened, how would I handle it and would I come out on the other side stronger for it? Not something particularly easy to think about and yet — therein lies a story.
In over thirty years as a writer, I don’t often address the topic of my severe visual impairment. This time, I’m considering a severely visually impaired character. In order to make this a great story, I need to reflect on how to express what it is like to be a visually impaired person and how that impacts me socially and emotionally. To tell you the truth, that’s a little scary. As Ernest Hemmingway once said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” Someone else — I think it was Anne Lamont — has described the writing process like taking off your clothes and walking through the streets naked.
Yes, sometimes it is like that. I’m not sure how ready I am to take off some layers and let others see what really makes Karen tick – or ticked off. In being willing to learn about myself and share it with others, however, I will allow God to use my words to bring understanding to the able-bodied and reassurance to those struggling with their own limitations.
In the midst of preparing this blog, a fellow writer looking forward to the publication of her six-book series died of cancer one week before the launch of her first book. In spite of her publisher’s efforts to move up the publication schedule, she went on to glory before she could hold her first book in her hands. How sobering!
It made me realize that if my ultimate goal is to publish a book – or any other big life dream – Hamlet’s “bitter slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” will ultimately cut short my dreams and let me down. But if my life goal is to be the best I can be for Jesus’ sake, each day, all day, every day, I will never be disappointed.
As you choose the activities of your life, dream your dreams, and set your life goals, choose this day to honor God in the execution of those life dreams, pray about even the small stuff, and be willing to listen, learn and grow through the process. Then you will know and experience God’s will. For the ultimate goal of our lives, the only one that matters is to hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”