So, have you ever had one of those experiences where you were so sure you could see where God was taking you? Like you just knew what He was doing because it was just so obvious…and then He did something completely different?
Yep, me too. Often.
I’ve spent most of my adult life trying to read God’s mind. As it turns out, I’m not very good at it.
As I mentioned in my last post, I spent 2014 working on a story about a car accident that changed my life. Back in December, I entered my book in the Tyndale Re:Write Ragged Edge Writing Contest. The prize was a publishing deal with Tyndale and the option of representation by the Fedd Literary Agency. When I made it into the top ten finalists, I was thrilled. We had a month to raise the funds to make the trip to Austin, Texas for the Re:Write Conference in February. God, as always, was faithful to provide through some amazing friends and family, and on February 25, my husband and I boarded a plane bound for Austin.
Considering the way things had unfolded to this point, it seemed like God was lining things up to take this book to publication. Everything fell right into place, and I allowed myself to think I might actually win the contest. And even if I didn’t win, I was going to a writing conference…I would have a chance to pitch the book—a contest finalist—to editors and agents. Either way, I could see the perfect path God seemed to by laying out before me.
As soon as I stepped into the conference, I knew it was going to be different. Instead of moving through various tracks of classes, all the attendees were in the same room, taking part in the same classes. And when I found out there were no agent/editor appointments, I had a small moment of panic. This was not at all what I expected.
At the end of the first night, I attended the conference banquet where they announced the winner of the contest. It wasn’t me.
I was so sure I knew what God was going to do at this conference. It made perfect sense to me. But He didn’t do any of it the way I thought He should. I was disappointed and confused. I wasn’t going to have an opportunity to pitch my book, and I hadn’t won the contest. Craig took a week of vacation and we spent so much money getting to this conference…and for nothing?
Here’s the thing: too often we look to the future and we see certain doors open, and we assume that God is going to do the obvious. So we walk through those doors with preconceived ideas about what’s behind them…and we are disappointed when we find something completely different. Sometimes we even feel a little betrayed by what we find.
But let’s be honest. God’s Way is ALWAYS the best way. His timing is ALWAYS perfect. His plan is ALWAYS so much better than anything we could come up with. We just have to be willing to let go of our own plans, trust He knows what He’s doing, and then wait for Him to be awesome.
Did this conference turn out the way I wanted? Nope.
Was this conference EXACTLY what I needed? Absolutely.
Although the Re:Write Conference was very different than any I've been to before, it was perfect. Writers of fiction and nonfiction, writers of every level, all sat together while speakers like Ted Dekker, Mark Batterson, Mary DeMuth, Susan May Warren, George Barna, and Sandi Krakowski stood in front of us and shared their messages. And their messages were beautiful. It was almost like a church service...for writers.
In addition, no pitching made for a much more relaxed atmosphere. I could actually focus on what the speakers were saying rather than worrying about my pitch. In addition, God sent precious encouragement through friendships. I enjoyed a mini Ponderer reunion with Alena and Susie May, and their hugs were much-needed. I got to see my friend Kim for the first time since we met at my very first conference in 2009. And I met another finalist who lives only about 20 minutes from my house, so I even found a non-fiction writing partner.
Most importantly, I discovered that my book was not ready for publication, because it wasn’t written the way GOD wanted it written. Without planning it, nearly every speaker expressed a similar message: if we hope to move our readers, we have to be willing to dig deep to that raw, vulnerable, dark place no one wants to go and then bleed our words onto the page. By the end of the conference, I realized that despite convincing myself I’d written from that place, I'd written my chapters from a safer, more superficial place. I knew that although my story was powerful, my writing was not. And I knew I was going to have to go home and Re:Write.
In addition, all the speakers shared something extremely challenging: if God is calling us to write a specific story or a specific genre or in a specific timeframe and we do not, we are disobedient. And as we all know, disobedience to God is SIN. Ouch!! Sin? Just because I didn’t sit down and write when I knew I was supposed to? Just because I thought I could write what I wanted rather than what God wanted? Just because I didn’t want to dig up all of my pain and write from a place of total brokenness? Just because I thought God would settle for my good rather than my best?
Yes. Just because ALL of the above.
I didn’t win the contest and I didn’t sign an agent; in fact, very little of what happened that weekend was what I expected. But I came home a winner, with a new purpose and a desire to worship God with what I write.
(Because I know you’re all curious, the guy who did win has a DYNAMO of a book called 41 Will Come. It was an honor to lose to him! I can’t wait to read his book and see what God does with it...it is going to bless and encourage a LOT of people!)
Is there something God has called you to do, but you’ve hesitated to move forward? Do you agree that not using your talents—even for creative purposes—constitutes sin?