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Sunday, October 29, 2006

Two Questions That Change Everything


© Staci Stallings

When you're living with the Holy Spirit, there are many moments when things aren't going the way you thought they would be. That's hard. I know. Because when you put everything in His hands, things are supposed to work out the way you wanted them to, right? I understand. Really I do. What I challenge you to see, however, is that sometimes God knows what we want is not really the best of what can be. He sees that, and He has heard you say you're putting it in His hands and that you trust Him, so He believes you will be patient enough to wait for His perfect timing.

But the truth is, sometimes it just doesn't feel that way. Sometimes His timing drives you completely crazy. Sometimes it is nearly impossible to believe that it will ever happen. Sometimes you just want verification that something is happening because it looks like nothing is happening.

A friend of mine was in exactly this dilemma the day we talked. She had made the leap, had sent in the manuscript to the big publisher, and had even gotten back a reply that wasn't an outright rejection, which in the publishing world is cause for serious celebration. Then the requisitions editor added a little phrase that for two months had grated across her patience. "I will get back to you as soon as possible."

She said, "How long is 'as soon as possible' anyway? I thought that would be like a couple weeks tops. Now it's been two months, and still I haven't heard anything. I'm thinking maybe I should write him and tell him to either publish it or reject it, so at least it's settled and I can go on with my life."

I understood her frustration because when you're living in the world, on your own, seeing things from only your perspective, and believing its all up to you, frustration will naturally occur. Why? Because no matter how right things are now, they could always be better. Yes, you got the manuscript finished. Yes, it was the best you've ever done. Yes, you didn't get the form letter rejection that most often get sent to aspiring writers.
In fact, he liked it. In fact, he said he may ask for more. In fact, this is exactly what you've been praying for since you first typed in that very first word, and yet... Now what?

It's important at moments like this to keep two questions in mind. These two questions in the midst of "This is driving me crazy!" will go a long way to settling your spirit and helping you to see what's really going on. They won't give you more patience but somehow they make patience less necessary.

The first question is this:

Where is my focus?

As life has wrapped around you in a menagerie of directions, have you let your focus fall back into worldly pursuits? In short, is your focus on you or on God? Ah, great question. If your focus is on you, nerves, anger, and impatience is readily evident. You begin to ask questions like, "What should I do?" "How long should I wait?" "What am I doing this for?" And you begin to doubt yourself and your dream. "Maybe this isn't even worth it." "Maybe I should never have even tried." "Maybe I'd be better off trying something else."

When your focus is on you, life is hard. Really hard. No matter what you do, it's never as much as you should have done. No matter where you are, you should be over there. No matter what, life could always be better, and you have a sneaking suspicion that if you could just figure out what everyone else knows, it would be.

On the other hand, when your focus is on God, you trust that you are where you are supposed to be, that things are happening that you can't see that will make the entire enterprise turn out far more wonderfully than you could ever have imagined. So, where is your focus?

The second question is this:

What is God trying to teach me through this experience?

This is a nice question mostly because it distracts your mind and gives it something other than cataloging how awful this is and dragging your focus back to you. However, it's also a very helpful question for a lot of other reasons. The most important because every situation can teach you something if you are open to the lesson and if you are looking for it. Many people get so caught up in getting to the goal they've set that they close themselves off to other ways success might actually be happening.

For example in my writing, I wanted to sell a lot of books so money would not be a problem My efforts went to making this happen. My time was devoured by it. It consumed me. Then one day I stopped my headlong pursuit of "success" long enough to ask what God was trying to show me through the waiting. Immediately I saw two things. One, the money was not a problem. It just wasn't coming from me but from my husband's booming business. Solve one. Secondly I began to see what I had learned in the waiting.

One of the biggest was getting a really long, hard look at the life of an author with the success I thought I wanted. Jetting off every weekend to book signings or speaking engagements, attending conferences and book fairs. I'm not saying those things are wrong for everyone. But they are wrong for me.

Another was bending who you are in order to get a publishing company to like what you wrote enough for them to publish you. Now many readers don't realize how completely a manuscript can be changed from inception to completion to publication. In fact, my first novel "The Long Way Home" was published with the help of an editor. I will be forever grateful for the things he taught me, but one of those lessons was how little control the author has over what finally goes out.

My editor, for whatever reason, was colon crazy. He would put colons into the manuscript for no apparent reason. He just liked them. After awhile he admitted that some he had put in just to see if I would catch them. I did, but what I didn't catch was how thoroughly he had stripped my voice out of the manuscript. By the time it was finished, it sounded just like every other book on the market. Some call this making a book "marketable," but I'm not so sure. The more I look at what this process does, the more I am convinced the one thing it does with precision is to eradicate the unique voice God gave to the author.

Of course it's always done under the guise of making the work "better" and "marketable" by the world's standards. To which I have to ask, "Where is God in this?"

So, for me, I'm glad God didn't give me the world's definition of success with my novels. I would no doubt have run myself and my family into the ground over it. That's one of the things He taught me, and one of the lessons I know I would have missed had not learned to ask the two questions that change everything.

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1 comment:

Gina said...

Amen! This post rang true with me. Seven months ago God made me face these two questions, among others, and asked me to lay my writing down on the altar. I did! It was the hardest thing I had to do, but I'm so glad I did.

There's no more anxiety to publish. No more worries about perfectionism. I also realized all my "editors" had stripped away my voice, and now with distance from my WIP, I'm slowly finding it again.

I now have a peace about God's timing in my writing career and I look forward to the times I get to write, instead of obsessioning over having to write all the time!

I feel free in this area and if really feels good!