Life doesn’t always go the way we think it will. …Scratch that. …Life RARELY goes the way we think it will. We make plans, but they change, unravel, and sometimes just plain fall apart. Some people bounce back quickly or just go with the flow when this happens, but even the most fluid people eventually reach that point when they don’t know how they got where they are or where they’re supposed to go next.
Those moments can be terribly disheartening.
About a year ago, after years of painstaking work, I dared to send out a book to a group of friends who agreed to provide feedback on the novel. Their insight was amazing. They helped me spot numerous typos, found a few structural and conceptual issues, pointed out that a couple of characters needed more memorable names, and so on. I was very excited. I was sure that in a month’s time I would have the edits finished and be on my way to publishing the book.
And then, life happened.
With almost no warning, my writing time was suddenly gone (as the scarcity of posts to this blog bears witness). The few moments I had to work on the book here and there were usually interrupted, overwhelmed by other needs, or so far apart that I felt I had to start all over just to figure out where I had left off.
Talk about a plan gone wrong!
Week after week, I was editing someone else’s writing to make a little extra income, while my own writing sat in a pile of edits and drafts and notes—untouched. It was discouraging.
Finally, over this past Memorial Day weekend, I had time to make huge progress. I finished most of the changes and then started reading back through the book. But I only made it halfway before the weekend ended. Once again, the manuscript sat—always open and ready on my computer, but stuck on Chapter 22. The process seems to drag.
We all have “unfinished manuscripts” in our lives, whether they be actual books or some other goal or hobby or passion. Some of them we have pursued with every ounce of energy only to have our plans thwarted in some way or by someone. Sometimes it’s not just one manuscript; in fact, if you know many writers, you know that we usually have piles of manuscripts in progress. Even if those “piles” are organized neatly in our computer, they are still there.
Sometimes the unfinished or the failing or even just the faltering dream can weigh down on our spirits. We begin to let them define us. “See,” we say, “I’ve never finished this project or that one.” Or, “Look. Everything I’ve tried to do has failed.” Or, “Nothing every works out, so why should I try?”
That’s when it’s important to remember that what we accomplish is not who we are.
I’m sure you’ve heard people say that before, but we live in a culture that denies it. We expect perfection from ourselves because our culture has set a very high standard of achievement before us, and to “be anyone” we must attain. This isn’t just a trait of our world. It has also crept into our service and worship. We mean well, but sometimes our expectations of service or participation or behavior just aren’t attainable. And the next thing you know, we’ve got everything upside down. We schedule every moment with so much “service” that we forget to take time to simply walk humbly before our God. We work so hard to keep ourselves unspotted from the world that we forget we must sometimes go into the hard places of the world to touch those in need. We overachieve when God simply wants us to be.
Sometimes, we just need a reality check. We need to remember that who we are is not what books we have written, what jobs we have worked, what programs we have developed, what ministry we have carried out, what businesses we have started, what businesses we have lost, how many children we have had, how many marriages we’ve had, how large a house we own, or if we can pay our rent. None of that makes us who we are. Those are a part of us. They have helped to shape us. They are the circumstances that help to form our character. Our world may identify us or classify us by some of them, but they are not what is important. One thing matters:
Who I am before Christ.
When He looks at me, what does He see? A lost sinner? A child that has wandered astray? A repentant heart? A labor-weary servant? A redeemed and precious child?
When He looks at my heart, is it pure? Is it a place where He has full reign? Is it growing to reflect and resemble more of Him and less of me?
One thing is sure—we are loved with a love that will pursue us to the end of the earth. When we fall, He will be there to lift us back up, brush us off, and set us on the right path—or to chasten us if need be. When we feel we have failed in an assignment, He is there to pull us back on track and to remind us that, just like my manuscripts,—our story isn’t done. There is still time to edit. We may not be able to change things in the past, but with God’s help we can do right in the future. One little decision, one little commitment to let God lead and to follow Him no matter what can change the plot lines we thought were already set. And then, the next thing we know, an adventure has begun.
So, to all of you who read my book last spring, thank you again, and please know that your labors weren’t in vain. The book is so much closer, and so much better, because of you.
And to those of you who are feeling like your “pile of manuscripts” will never be complete, rest in the Lord. Let Him guide you to the next step. After all, “Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it…” (Psalm 127:1)
And to those of you whose lives seem to be falling apart, remember that the Author and Finisher of our faith can restore all things. He does not leave us, nor does He change. In fact:
He writes the best stories.
Barren Fields, Fruitful Gardens – Book 1: Winter’s Prey
When the cruel elements of the Montana Territory inflict tragedy on the Bennett family, life is forever changed. Jessica is certain the answer to her pain lies in starting over. Her brother Marc is determined to stay true to what he has always known.
Amidst the constant battle for survival and the conflict in their hearts, both siblings stand at the threshold of surrender to God. What will they choose?