Writing is how I express myself. Through writing I tell stories and the life lessons I learned from them. I practiced this craft for a long time, telling countless stories over the years, and improving, (or so I thought), on how to use tone and words to convey the little I knew, hoping that it would help others in some small way.
Iron sharpens iron, and/but life and death are in the power of the tongue
Iron sharpens iron, (Prov 27:17), and/but, life and death are in the power of the tongue, (Prov 18:21). One day a handful of years ago, someone I looked up to as a leader said a few words that made me think that I could learn from him regarding the way I write. I thought he was teaching me something new, and I took his words as a new direction. I started to try to write the way he seemed to say I should. I assumed that our conversation was indeed ‘iron sharpening iron’.
I worked hard at making the change. Every time I sat at my computer I could hear his words in my ear and tried to train myself to write in the way he spoke about. I tried so hard that after a couple of years I gave up writing altogether because it was all so frustrating! I put writing aside for about a year, and in that time wrote nothing. Instead, I went out and experienced life as one who doesn’t feel the need to write about anything. I learned new short-lived ways of self-expression, and for that season, didn’t miss writing at all.
Then the time came to start writing again. The pull was there and I couldn’t avoid it. So, I set myself to refocus, take the words from out of my head, and put them down where they could be read. But something had changed. Not only was I rusty, but in the time that I had been away from writing, that leader’s words had taken even deeper root, and none of the methods or systems that had worked for me before seemed to help me put out anything that appealed to me. It all looked like just a bunch of words that I couldn’t put in any order that appealed to me. It didn’t look or sound like me, and I kept thinking, “I just need to try harder, keep going. One day it’ll fall into place and I’ll hit my groove.” But it didn’t happen.
Instead, it felt like I had forgotten where I had come from.
Remembering who I am and where I came from
I longed to write in a way that pleased me, first of all, before it could do anything for anyone else. Since I picked up writing again, I’ve slowly come to the realization that for that to be the case, I have to recall those early days of my Christianity when I devoured the book of John and took a deep dive into an exegesis of Genesis. The memory of the desperation I felt to become a better person, and to put in the work needed to get there has to always be near me. The times and people I failed in that process can’t be memories I forget. And the successes and moves that propelled me ever more forward should highlight this tapestry I’m trying to create.
The battle has been to stay true to who I am, where I come from, all the while growing in an art form that is integral to my very being. Does this process sound familiar to something you are going through?
What am I bringing to the altar?
A few weeks ago I heard a simple sermon, A Word From God (Maybe Two) with Pete Wilmot, about legacy and the types of altars that we build to the Lord, and it spoke directly to the struggle concerning my writing. The sermon was based on the ancient passage, Exodus 20:24-26, where God gave the Israelites directions on how to build altars to Him: An altar of earth you shall make for me and sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your oxen. In every place where I cause my name to be remembered I will come to you and bless you. If you make me an altar of stone, you shall not build it of hewn stones, for if you wield your tool on it you profane it. And you shall not go up by steps to my altar, that your nakedness be not exposed on it. (ESV)
I had taken a simple God-given gift and had bent over in all different directions to try to please someone else with it. God’s direction to me has always been simple: “Tell your stories and blend in the life lessons that point to Me to go along with them”; but I felt that wasn’t enough, and so tried to build an altar with dressed stones, a chisel, and a drill to make it into something it was never supposed to be. There are many people who write in the ways that leader will read and receive from; I am not one of them, and I don’t need to be. That is totally okay. I know that now.
The leader’s words did set me on a path of diversion that I could have done without; or could I? Was it a lesson that I needed to learn, not only regarding the need to stay true to my style of writing, but also to realize the weight our words carry, whether we are leaders or not? That iron sharpens iron because the power of life in our words has the ability to build up another person, and give them wings? Likewise, the power of death in our words can have the exact opposite effect, just as easily tearing down another human being, and clipping their wings.
Maybe I also needed the lesson that when it comes to the matter of spiritual discernment, we are always open for business. If my antennae had been up and functioning, I would have recognized those few words for what they were, simply his thoughts on writing, and not have taken them on as a burden for myself.
Not only did I need to write this for myself, but also for those of you who read what I write. It’s not that I owe you an explanation, but it feels right that I give you one. You’ve read me as I’ve meandered through this desert in the last few years, and you may have wondered what was happening with me. It’s taken me a while to see and understand it, but I wanted to let you know that I’m heading back to my first love and to my purpose ~ to telling stories with life lessons pointing to our Father. Thank you for hanging with me through the journey, and for not dropping me, even when you’ve thought that my writing was changing and you weren’t sure that you liked the change.
A call back to simplicity
And I want to encourage you as well with these questions:
- In what area of your life are you doing what I did?
- Where have you allowed someone else’s vision to distract and divert you?
- What is that simple altar that God has asked of you that you are trying to make into something fancy that shows your work and your effort, instead of His gifting and purpose for you?
These are tough questions, and in facing them fully, you may experience some strong emotions. I know I did.. am experiencing; but it’s a call back to simplicity, to giving God the glory, and to living a life full of purpose because we know exactly who we are.
I invite you to examine the altar you are building to God. A good starting point is to listen to the sermon I referenced earlier, (link is provided). As difficult as it might be to face yourself and where you are in the building of that altar, you will be so happy you set yourself to completing that self-examination. It will bring freedom and clarity of purpose that you may have lost along the way.