I wish God worked at the post office. Then He would have a rotating two-tier wheel of clamps by His side. It would hold red ink rubber stamps. And if God worked at the post office, one of those stamps would most certainly say, God’s Will. We could just drop our letters at the post office and ask, “God, is this Your Will?”
Everybody talks about seeking God’s Will. I look for God’s Will just about as hard as anyone I know. In the first seconds of wakefulness each morning, my face smothered in the pillow, I say good morning to God. “Please, God, let me do something for You today. Let me know what You want. Give me the courage to do what You ask.”
In the morning darkness, on the couch under a quiet brass lamp, I open His Word and read for daily guidance and comfort. During the day in the car, I turn to AM radio, listening to others who seek His Word. They speak with such confidence. They’ve found it, His Will.
“Look,” they say, “ask yourself what your mission is. What do you hunger to do? What are your talents? God wouldn’t give you a mission and talents if they weren’t part of His Will.”
It’s so tempting to latch onto their advice without challenge. I love to write. If I could sit at the typewriter skipping breakfast, lunch, and dinner, I would scarcely feel hunger. Wouldn’t it be great if God loved what I love! But I know better…I think. My thoughts call up my personal divining rod: Hitler. He loved cruelty, killing, and war. Does our own passion and commitment to a cause prove God’s Will? Hitler might have thought so.
A Christian writer’s conference is a wonderful place to seek security in the love of writing. At my first writers conference ever, I carried one book and two articles in my bag hoping to find God’s Will in some editor’s approval. Encouragement was there. “Keep at it,” a few told me. So I listened eagerly for advice from the experts: buy tapes, buy books, write proposals and query letters, write more, join editing groups, expect rejection, keep at it, hundreds of rejections mean nothing, organize, keep going, keep records, keep writing. But above all, they intone, seek God’s Will. Remember, God doesn’t create talent for nothing. You can do it, get published, be a star, be a writer. If you love it, God will, too.
I crave their reassurance, but when does my will get relabeled God’s Will as justification for what I want? If it’s God’s Will, why does he make me spend weeks writing and rewriting book proposals? Couldn’t writers just send out a book proposal to God at the post office and have Him stamp it with red ink: God’s Will or…
I must be God’s most rebellious servant. God, if it’s your will, make it happen. You’ve left too many hurting people on earth for me to dilly dally around writing query letters and book proposals. One mile down the street, Pat lies alone in her nursing home bed, her bones poking through tightly stretched skin all covered over with painful lesions. She is waiting for me to return this week, waiting for any bits of conversation with me as interludes in her long day, in a long week, filled with bed pans, IV’s, pain pills, and cold food. I don’t need publishing. I don’t need fame or money. At least send me a sign. Something big that I won’t miss.
Lucy Swindoll understands. She told God she wanted to do something significant with her life. But she also begged, “God, let me know when that moment of significance happens. I know you, God, you value small things. I might miss it. Don’t let me miss it. I might do something so small I will never realize it was significant.”
Maybe Lucy Swindoll’s radio program was my sign. She caught me in the car on my way home from Officemax yesterday with her story of a birthday party in a hearse. Immediately my mind turned to the unbelievable antics of her “gang of grownups” who managed to lose a long black car in the middle of the night. My giggles and laughs followed her details from one escapade to the next, until finally, she and her four friends sat, riding in the front seat of a police car to pick up the “lost” hearse from the police impound. I approached the turnoff to home and tapped my foot on the accelerator, “Speed up Lucy! I need to know how the story ends.” But they arrived at the police station at the very same moment I had to turn the car over to my daughter for her work transportation. Cut short, I turned off the radio, not to know whether Lucy was arrested or not. Ah, well. “God’s got more important things on the schedule for me,” I consoled myself.
Later that night, as I relaxed on the patio, my son Justin called for a ride home. I pulled my feet off the coffee table and tried to gather energy to meet my motherly obligation without grumbling. Driving to meet him, I had a moment’s inspiration. On the way back, we could buy ice cream for root beer floats. We had never done this. It was just the excitement we both needed!
Maybe God wanted ice cream. Maybe it was He who pointed at Smitty’s grocery store, a place I never shop. Did He nudge me, while Justin was in the store, “Turn on the radio.” I did. I turned to my normal Christian station 960 AM, and as usual in the evening, it was lost in static. I thought of picking my regular country western alternative. “No,” God nudged again. “I’m here. Keep looking.”
Inexplicably, for the first time in my life, I turned to the FM dial. On the first push of the “seek” button, there was Lucy again, arriving at the police station, ready to pay $43 to pick up her hearse. Wow! Thanks, God.
I followed her story to the end, laughing all the way. Her point? She wanted God to use her and she wanted a sign. For Lucy, it came one night at a dinner party when an American Christian Writer editor walked up to her and asked her to write. Incredulously, she pointed out to him that she wasn’t a writer. What would he suggest, she queried. He asked, “What do you think you could write?”
“Well, I won’t use scripture,” she declared.
“Fine,” he agreed.
“Perfect,” she deadpanned, “a Christian writer who doesn’t use scripture.” Now, that’s my kind of writer, I thought. I quit listening to the radio and turned my thoughts to my own doubts.
“Is that you God?” I asked.
God is one persistent person. Elie Weisel is a writer rejected over 20 times because the world doesn’t want to get depressed about his life. Poor world. But finally, one person hears God’s call and publishes Elie’s words. His words and books based on his survival of Hitler’s concentration camps have pulled me out of my deepest depressions. I have survived my own life because Elie wrote his story and persisted to find a publisher.
A new writer friend Marsha tells me, “Maybe somebody else will know what you mean when you write. Maybe your words will help someone, someday.” I think of my father-in-law, the eternal atheist. Unexpectedly, he reads the book I wrote for my children, and he is converted for a week. It’s the longest week of his life. Is this a sign?
Tonight at 2:30 a.m., I wake, unable to sleep, restless, but settled. I need to hear God. I wander to the office and turn on the computer. God, is that you? I want to lie down, but I’m not tired. The strain of listening for God shatters my peace of mind. I seek the determination to walk away from writing, to let it go, but a pecking insistence remains. In the darkness, I must sit and type for one more chapter. “God is that you?”
“Please, God, I need a sign. There is simply too much of me in my writing for good judgment’s sake. I have promised a year. I’ll give writing a chance, just in case that’s what you want. A year. I know it’s not my place to tell you what to do. But I need a sign. I can’t bear to leave Pat alone in bed during the day at the rest home unless I know there’s a better reason to write than keeping my own sanity.
“Please, God, if it is really You, use your red ink stamp. Better yet, hit me with a brick. I’m not a very good Christian. I need a big sign. I don’t think I will be able to detect Your whisper.”
THE WRITER’S LIFE
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