Last night Em had two friends over for dinner (the three of them fixed it, a nice thing, though their cleaning up skills still need a LOT of improvement). During the meal, one of them mentioned Father’s Day, and I gasped. “What?” Em asked, startled. “I completely forgot to call my dad on Father’s Day,” I said. “I didn’t even think of it as BEING Father’s Day.” Last week I sent my dad a card for Father’s Day (complete with a really cute recording of my kids singing to their “Pops”), but then we celebrated early with Dave because he left town before dawn on Sunday morning on a weeklong trip, so Sunday simply felt like a “normal” husband-is-out-of-town survival day. Plus I had two single-parent friends over for lunch, and we chatted for a long time that afternoon. So, with all that going on, and a crazy week following, I forgot about Father’s Day. Late last night I decided to send him an e-mail explaining and apologizing for my forgetfulness.
When I opened my e-mail, there it was, the response from the literary agency I’d been waiting five weeks for. It was a form rejection letter—no, it was a form rejection e-mail, about as impersonal as you can get, in my opinion. It had the standard “We’re sorry, but your submission does not meet our editorial needs” line that could mean just about anything, and it had a link in it to an article for aspiring writers that basically said (keep in mind that I read this in a discouraged state) that getting published is a fierce competition and “do you really want to keep entering the rat race?” It also said that rejection is good for my character.
I wanted to say, to the vague, nameless person who pushed the send button on the generic e-mail, “Who put you in charge of my character development?” but, all my snippy comments aside, I found myself clinging to trust, a much better alternative. (Dave expressed anger for me. When I told him about it, I said, “I’m okay. I really am.” He responded, “Well, I’m not. I think it’s crappy,” and I have to admit that was gratifying.)
But in the process of God reworking how I view my writing, I’m learning that it, like everything else, is a matter of trust in Him. That sounds too simplistic; at the same time, it really IS simplistic. If I truly believe that the transcendent God personally loves ME (more on this ongoing lesson in another post), then I must believe that He orders every bit of my life for good, capital-letter GOOD. This is not only the good of His entire universe—big picture scenario, reaching both into time and scope—but also MY good. I don’t believe God is a “lose the battle to win the war” commander in chief. He doesn’t sacrifice me (or any other individual believer) for the good of the “bigger, grander” cause (and here I must add that I think we often have skewed ideas about what IS the “grander” purpose. One individual soul may often be the grandest cause in the eyes of God.)
HOWEVER, I understand that the “good” God has for me generally doesn’t involve my comfort or the stroking of my self esteem. My good may be depth of trust in Him, a greater understanding of others’ pain or sufferings, a deepened relationship, or acknowledgement of a sinful pattern in my life. My “good” often hurts in the process of it being worked out.
Let me get back to writing, I LOVE to write. I have tried to stop multiple times, but I cannot; it’s a part of me. I’ve tried to be content with writing only for my own eyes. That also doesn’t work. Deep down is a longing for others to read my work and be impacted by it, for—I’m being raw-honest here—publishers to pronounce it good and worth reading.
Yet publication may not be my best good. God’s plan may be for me to never have a book published. So as I submit book proposals and queries, I have to do it in hope—perhaps this is the agent who will accept my work—as well as in trust—even if it is not and I continue to send it out time and time again and continually rework it and other projects without any outer signs of “success,” this IS God’s good for me. It may be that the rich and varied relationships I’ve formed because of my writing, the personal opportunities I’ve had to share my faith in a good God, these may be the bigger purpose of my writing.
Last night God provided both trust and hope. I read the “form rejection e-mail,” perused the discouraging article, read the e-mail again, and then somehow felt strength enough to look at another agent’s Web site, read her requirements for submitting a nonfiction proposal, and send it to her. The next morning I woke feeling a bit discouraged and tired and had a chaotic day with my own four and some extra neighborhood kids running around the house. I am so thankful God gave me energy, focus, and hope at a time when I had the quiet space to actually do something. What a gift!
Hope and trust. Actually I think trust and hope is probably the better order; hope flows from trust. When I believe that God really loves me and has good planned for me, then I can have hope that whatever happens is not only good, it is best, regardless of how it looks to anyone else, or even of how it may feel to me.