January 20, 2012

From Good to Better...to Best

Hello flashing cursor and blank white page. It’s good to be back, my friend.

Has absence made your heart grow fonder? Or will you chastise me for neglect? I have excuses at the ready to explain my time away. Some good, some lame. But honestly I’ve neglected you for a simple reason—my attention has been focused elsewhere.

And it’s been a good thing.

2011 was a different kind of year. It brought a season of stripping away as God taught me some hard lessons about holding loosely onto the ways I serve Him. See, I kept a tight grip on the ministries I’d been involved. To me these things were a big part of how I defined myself as a Christian servant. They gave me joy and filled me with pride and I think occasionally bore fruit.  

But truth is, the joy was past tense and the staying was out of obligation. I soldiered on because I thought that’s what I was supposed to do...and God wanted me to do. Plus my ego confirmed, “You can’t leave. This is who you are. They need you…who will take your place?”

Yet in several areas I knew the time had come to say goodbye. And in the walking away I didn't feel regret or remorse as expected, I felt relief and renewal and peace. Yes, it was time.

My empty calendar beckoned, “Fill me up. Don’t be idle. Get busy!” But God said, “Be still.”

And in the in-between-time He allowed my empty hands to grasp more tightly to the passions He’s led me to. And He opened up new ways of serving Him and His people. Often in unexpected ways.

But my writing voice remained quiet. The words set aside, seemingly content to be stored away. Lord, are you calling me from writing, too? In time I’ve felt His answer, “Give voice to the stories I give you.”

After our last trip to Haiti last October I saw this confirmed as God provided amazing opportunities to share our stories from Haiti. In the telling, people were touched, hearts were softened and eyes opened. Others were blessed and I was too.

I know God’s given me a gift with words but I’ve struggled with my role as a writer. For a while I tried to imitate successful writers' habits. But I could never sustain the focus and drive needed to earn the title, "Writer." Guilt followed my lack of discipline.

It's been rewarding to have my words reach others. And exciting to dip my toe in the pool of publication. But I realized I’ve jumped into the writing dreams of others. And this held me hostage. During my break from writing I’ve come to understand that I don’t have a burning passion to write (and that’s OK)... but I do have a passion to tell the stories that God is so vividly writing on the tablets of my heart. Stories of Haiti and the prison. Stories of His amazing grace. Stories of love in action. Stories of adventures with my Guide.

Writing is an extension of my greater calling. An integral part of it. So I look forward to 2012 with open ears and an expectant heart. Excited to see what stories God will tell anew and which ones He’ll continue.

In the beginning of Philippians, Paul says a prayer for the Philippians that strikes me as the secret to success for this Christian journey we’re on: “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.”

His prayer has become my prayer: to grow in love and wisdom so that I can discern good and best. Just because I CAN do something, doesn't mean I SHOULD do it. Sometimes "No" is the best answer. I don't know if what I'm doing now is the best, but I do know it's better. And in that I'll keep striving for discernment. Because with the "best" comes with the abundant blessings of Christ. And that, my friends, is where I want to be!

What good (and not so good) things are you clutching? If you loosen your grip, what might Christ give you to hold?