Two friends and I are about halfway through reading and discussing Anything by Jennie Allen. If you haven't read it, it's the story of how she and her family arrived at a point of telling God they would do anything for Him, and started "living radically." While I admire her abandonment, I'm so weary of the whole "the American Dream is PURE EVIL, so sell all your worldly goods and move to Africa, or you're not a real Christian" attitude. Going to Africa was her initial idea of "anything," but maybe there's a twist later in the book – I haven't gotten there yet. My point is, countless books and sermons tell us that there's only one way to live a life that counts: full-time ministry, preferably global missions, the more dangerous and sacrificial the better (I call this "looking-for-trouble theology" because seriously, doesn't each day bring enough trouble of its own here in the regular world?).
Thankfully, my pastors regularly refute that message, speaking honor over lives lived out in cubicles, kitchens, hospitals, classrooms, and studios. They reassure us that our different, often menial callings are equally important in the work of redemption. I appreciate this so much. But it's still hard for me to deprogram. I've never felt called to global missions. I've never been much good in the inner city or with youth. There's only one thing that's been in my bones practically since birth, and that's writing. But that's flighty kid stuff, right?
My writing class has a conference call/video chat every Saturday. Last week, the discussion questions and topics were about owning your calling as a writer. Our teacher read us a passage about "the virtue trap" – the tendency to put our writing talents on the shelf in the name of selflessness, so they won't interfere with our "real" jobs, so others won't disapprove of our "selfish" pursuits. When we don't make room for our writing or make it a priority, we sell out our creative selves, and in so doing, cease to be whole people.
Well, I was openly weeping over my journal pages by the end of the call. I've dismissed myself as a writer every day of my adult life. It's only been a few years since I mustered up enough confidence to start this blog. Even now, I usually see my more serious posts (let alone anything bigger I might want to write) as a self-indulgent running off at the fingers. Writing things out is the only way I can make sense of life, but I feel guilty about doing it publicly. The internet and bookstores are already glutted with opinions and personal stories. Who needs one more? In recent months, I've felt increasing annoyance at other low-level bloggers who share their posts far and wide, generally acting like their words matter and are worth your attention. They behave like validated writers regardless of how great their writing is or the size of their audience. I mean, how can they own their thoughts so boldly? Don't they know their place, as I know mine? Aren't they afraid of public shaming by trolls or even people they know? Who do they think they are??? Yes… we have located the ugly source of the toxic leak.
The idea that the Holy Spirit is my muse, that God actually wants me to write and smiles on my efforts, that writing is what He put me on earth to do, is almost too much for me to wrap my head around. It seems too easy, but it's not. If I really believed in and owned my calling, it would require consistent work and sacrifice, and maybe eventually financial struggle. It would require me to trust God in new ways, taking chances and trusting Him to bring fruit from my labors. In fact, the more I thought about it, the more a commitment to say yes to writing sounded like Jennie Allen's "anything." It (probably) won't involve orphans or moving into a yurt. But it could be the big, risky work of God in and through my life all the same.
I can't change my heart about this overnight. I don't know how to proceed in a practical sense. But I want to start respecting my writing and seeing it as holy. I want to believe that it has a lasting purpose even if the whole world doesn't see it. I want to let my light shine without fear, even if it's a candle and not a floodlight. I can't wait for permission to be honest and real, because the world will never give it to me – I can only claim it for myself. If I even make progress toward that goal, I think it could change everything.