Sunday, February 03, 2008

The Paradox

Has this ever happened to you?

Yesterday I had a lovely time speaking for a local meeting of the National Church Library Association. I was delighted to share with the members why they are my heroes. You see, my own church library provided me with Christian authors who mentored me through their books when I was a teen - and changed my life and spiritual journey in profound ways.

I particularly shared how we may not always get to see the results - but as we are available for God to use, we can trust that He is sharing grace, encouragement, and blessing through our lives.

Yet today I was beating myself up for being a failure - because I wasn't seeing results I'd hoped for. And I was noticing many others with more skill and more measurable success (even though trying very hard NOT to notice). The performance trap had me in its toothy jaws again. I laughed when I realized I needed to listen to the talk I'd given twenty-four hours earlier.

That happens to me a lot.

I also notice it with my books. Themes develop from my life experience and from passions that God places on my heart. But I often grapple with the concepts in new ways as I edit the book, and again as the book releases.

I BLISSFULLY ripped open an envelop from my publisher yesterday to find my author copy of Restorer's Journey. How thrilling! And how deeply I needed to remember what I learned from the character who is ready to despair when the calling is much harder and much more unfair than he imagined. I signed copies of Symphony of Secrets yesterday, and thought about my lovely neurotic flutist character - and how her art had become her god. I've been wrestling a lot with laying my writing down at His feet (and not snatching it back up again or giving it idolatrous attention). God is teaching me these themes all over again.

I guess it makes sense that I speak and write about issues that I'm still struggling with. That way God gets to do double duty. Primarily, I hope my words bring others encouragement. But at the same time, God speaks the same themes to me and challenges me to grow.

Maybe it's not a paradox after all. Maybe it's another example of God being able to use flawed, chipped vessels. Isn't He great?


Pamela J said...

Sharon, you wrote, "I needed to remember what I learned from the character who is ready to despair when the calling is much harder and much more unfair than he imagined." I know you are correct, accurate, about being pulled into despair when the calling is hard. God's enemy uses this vise against us to pull us from the Lord but at the same time, God allows it to happen for our learning to keep our focus on Him as we grow. I'm thrilled with the insights God has given you in your writings, they are true to life applications of where we all are or all have been.
I was kind of surprised when you say, "...I speak and write about issues that I'm still struggling with" because that is what our Preacher tells us sometimes. He said what he needs is a great big mirror at the back of the room so he can preach to himself as well. The Lord has given him great insights into problems and some scriptural answers but that doesn't mean he, or you, have arrived or are perfect in the midst of the trials. Keep learning and sharing and taking that challenge to grow. Thanks for all you do.

Sharon Hinck said...

Hi, Pam!
I LOVE that idea of a "mirror in the back of the room," that your pastor shared. We do indeed need to preach and write the truth to ourselves as well as others, don't we?

When I was struggling with some issues a year ago, my small-group Bible study gals said, "There's this book you should read - it would really speak to what you're battling. It's called The Secret Life of Becky Miller."

Ha! (I do love my smart-aleck friends).

Hooray for God using "un-arrived" people to encourage and support others on the journey. :-)

Shane Deal said...

I know exactly what you mean about learning from yourself... I learn so much from my characters. Particularly one that is facing some... issues.... But sometimes my characters prove rather discouraging and leave me in the depths of despair right alongside them. Alas, I'm afraid I cannot let them suffer alone.

Congratulations on receiving the author copy! It sounds thrilling. (I think it's already on my Amazon Wish List by the way.)

I understand the performance trap. I came across a quote of J. R. R. Tolkien's however that I really like that really can apply to that situation:

"The only just literary critic, is Christ, who admires more than does any man the gifts He Himself has bestowed."

quote found here


Chawna Schroeder said...

Ah, the joy of being a writer/speaker/teacher--your words have a tendency to come back to haunt you. :o) Perhaps that's one reason why James 3 warns people about becoming teachers.

But God is good, He is great, and greatly to be praised.

Now I had better quit before I have too many words to come back to haunt me!

Anonymous said...

Sharon, thanks for these words. I've been facing my own discouragement about my (or God's?)writing dreams, and I needed to hear this.

Cheryl Klarich said...

I really liked this musing. And the thought provoking discussion! Thanks so much.

Eleanor Joyce said...

He is great indeed! A few days ago I received my copy of "Symphony of Secrets" and wasted no time digging into it. LOVE this book, and it is reaching my heart!

Sharon Hinck said...

Shane - I love that quote!

Everyone - I'm glad to know I'm not alone in that struggle to offer my little bit but trust the results to God. thank you all for sharing! Great discussion!

Eleanor - I'm SOOOO tickled the book is reaching your heart. Music to an author's ears. :-)