Sometimes we get stuck in our writing because we don’t know what to say. All we know for sure is that we’re unsure. Where the world says wait for the muse, the Word says wait for the Holy Spirit. Though it tarries, wait for it. Because it will surely come.
God is patient with us and we must be patient with ourselves. Just because our fingers aren’t dancing about the keyboard doesn’t mean we’re not in writing mode. As I sat with my children on our chilly balcony with rain pouring down just beyond our tea cups, my daughter’s words echoed my thoughts. “I’m going to have lots of rain and storms and dreary days in my book,” she said. Earlier as I ironed my apron and went straight to the kitchen to spill burned butter all over it, it was yet another writing prompt. My heroine would be a closet apron ironer, to feel close to her grandmother. Later on, I mused, I would walk in the rain with an umbrella and think of Jo March and her professor in Little Women. And I would ponder the beauty of a book set during the Civil War in which nary a battlefield was seen. Might such a book be considered tame by today’s standards? Yes, but today’s readers still read it! Is my book too tame? No. What’s tame about professors and umbrellas and rain and love? What’s love got to do with it? Everything.
Love is to the reader as rain to a thirsty land. Just as the water I gave my plants this morning surely qualifies as a good and perfect gift, so, I reason, should be my writing – a quenching outpouring to readers thirsty for beauty and truth and light. God’s answer to the ugly, the deceptive, the dark. Is such my writing? Let’s just say I’m working on it. I have been given a gift, a mandate, a race. I think of my friend who runs marathons. Like all exercise, the highest purpose of a marathon is to illustrate the similar attributes and benefits of spiritual exercise. My friend reads about running, talks about it, buys all the right gear, hangs out with other runners, and makes practice runs. You might say she was not really a marathon runner until she entered to race, sweated through the miles, and crossed the finish line. We might believe we’re not writers until our books are published, but every moment of our life is part of our writing, part of the race.
The key is knowing why we’re running, why we write. We may struggle for years with little to show for it, for two simple reasons: First, we don’t know why we write, only that we must; and second, we’re writing for publication, rather than for the benefit of our readers. If you write truth, it will find an audience. So, after all this time of waiting for success, for publication, adulation and riches untold, am I suggesting we wait some more? Yes, but with a difference: I’m suggesting patient expectation.
Patience – when we study it in the Word – we find little was accomplished apart from it. Patience is the undergirding of faith. It’s what enables us to continue through that long trek between the vision and the destination. Notice I did not say “agonizing and painful journey between vision and apocalypse.” Yes, it has often seemed so to me, but that was my fault. If our writing is in fact a calling, the One who calls is the One with the easy yoke and the light burden. It’s our adding on to the burden that makes what could be a walk in the park more of a slog through a bog.
We often, in our quest to hurry the writing, make it take longer. Alas, there are no shortcuts. We learn to write by writing, to live by living, to love by loving. If we will write His answer, we must adopt a sense of adventure and privilege, and know there will be a bit of work involved, including the work to develop perseverance and patience. We are speaking for the Most High. Let us take the time and do the work to learn His language, the language of love.
Love must be our reason for writing. And to the questions in our readers’ hearts, that is His answer: Love.
What does love look like? See Rosamunde Pilcher’s Coming Home wherein a family opens their home and their hearts to a young girl practically abandoned by her parents; see Pilgrim’s Inn, the story of a home where the wayfarer could heal; examine Georgette Heyer’s characters, seen through the eyes of an author in love – with humanity. Read and be changed by Neville Shute’s A Town Like Alice, as a young woman changes the lives of all those around her in the direst of times, even as the man who loves her gives his all. See Jane Eyre demonstrate her love for God as even greater than her love for Mr. Rochester. Love ultimately looks like sacrifice working through faith.
Love was Paul’s reason for writing. And writing. And writing. Love letters from Jesus, himself the conduit. Writing, as Paul did it, is the way to say exactly what we mean to say. We may consider and reconsider. We may call on God’s promises to give us the words, searching deep in our hearts for that which we must voice, and finding the words to reach that listening heart. We write for that waiting, yearning, listening heart. In so doing we have a conversation with another beautiful soul, with a brother or sister yet unmet. We write and we meet and we are both improved, encouraged, loved.
But what about you? What about me? Can we write such things? Are we any good? Let us scrutinize our work for one ingredient. Laying aside concerns about writing on par with Jane Austen and C.S. Lewis, let’s look at our writing and ask the question: Is it love?
Love says we weep over the agony of those in bondage, and when and only when the Holy Spirit makes the way and gives us the words, do we speak. Or write. Writing before we’re sure of His wisdom, of His leading, is speaking ahead of Him. It’s powerful, only in the wrong direction. We can actually nullify the freedom work He is doing in an entrapped soul by getting in the middle of things.
We must be as careful of what we write as of what we speak. Writing with love means taking our words captive and comparing them to the Words of God. We are to be His ambassadors, deployed for battle, not the agents of Satan to turn people away from Christ. Many Christian writers have ignored those words of Jesus Himself found in John 10:10: The thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy, but I have come that you might have abundant life. Indeed, it is as though they believe Jesus is the thief, the enemy (putting cancer on your heroine to teach her a lesson – just because He turns what the enemy does to your good, doesn’t mean He is the enemy!). Why would anyone in their right mind want to serve such a god? Such a god is served by pagans – angry, and to be appeased and placated by works and sacrifices. Jesus was and is the sacrifice. We are the redeemed. Let us say so in our writing.
People are often antagonistic to Christians because they are disappointed, disappointment leading to anger. Never doubt they know Jesus’ commandment to us – love. Never doubt they are watching. Hoping. We can all think of people who abandoned their parents’ faith. They have thrown the baby out with the bathwater, the baby being Jesus, the bathwater filthy religion, religion being man’s sad attempt to improve on the finished work of the Cross.
When we as writers respond to the anger and antagonism of the lost, we fall right into the enemy’s trap, and lose all possibility of effectiveness. A defensive posture is one of fear. We are never to respond in fear. We are to prepare with the full armor of God, and then, when He says we have something worth sharing (and our lives reflect it – i.e. don’t go giving marital advice when yours is on the rocks), we go boldly forward. We are to be a powerful offense against Satan and for man.
Our writing, incorporating patience, faith, and love, must point to Jesus. We don’t write based on our experience, denomination, pastor’s opinion, education, or upbringing. If we want to have influence, we’d better be sure we’re not seeking to promote our influence, and we’d better get real. Our writing must point to the ultimate reality – Christ Jesus. Paul, in all his writings, never once wrote to a group of perfect Christians. There were none. He admitted his failings, and never forgot who he would still be, if not for Christ. He didn’t write Paul’s answers. He wrote God’s answer: The Love of Jesus.