“I think God is calling me to write a book.”
She’s sheepish with the news, wondering what I think of the idea. But I need backstory, so my friend recounts how on three separate occasions, she’s been told by three separate people (all strangers) to write a book.
Who am I to argue with that, with serendipity, with God?
Hers is an incredible story, one worth telling. Years ago, she had been a surrogate for a couple whom she didn’t know previously. After several failed inseminations, she had finally gotten pregnant, and 26 weeks later she gave birth to triplets who fought for their lives for months in neonatal intensive care, each of them somehow managing ultimately to cling to their breath.
My friend, however, once paid for her services, was effectively cut off from those babies’ lives and stories. Every year now, she gets a Christmas card. They’re growing so big!
It’s like a sucker punch to the gut.
My friend’s story hangs with loose threads of confusion. There are emotions my friend has yet to process, a bewilderment she can’t yet shake about what God intended for that chapter of her life. Her story is still a stranger to her. And maybe the only way of making its acquaintance is to write.
I know this compulsion.
“Yes, you should write!” I finally conclude, silencing all my yet unvoiced hesitations about the business of book writing. I don’t admit that to interest an agent, much less a publisher is impossibly hard. I don’t mention the agony of building a platform. I don’t chronicle the rejections I’ve had. I know there will be enough discouragement ahead for her.
I have no doubt that writing, like many other vocations and pursuits, can be a divine calling. And whether or not my friend ever gets her book published, she will not regret the act of writing. When her hands take to that keyboard, when time begins to slow, and she gets alone with her thoughts, her story, her life will begin to take shape. The landscape of memory will be more beautiful and holy that she remembered it. And she will even find God, lurking where she didn’t expect Him.
This is worthwhile, and yet it won’t only be moments of marvel. There will also be days that will punish: an editor will demand a significant revision, an agent won’t answer a query, a magazine will reject a submission, and a commenter will shred an essay. (My particular favorite: “I think the comments on this article are better than the article itself.”) Calling, when life batters and self-confidence falters, serves like an anchor; it tethers us to the work for which we’ve been commissioned.
This Holy Week, I am thinking of the plot line of calling. I want my friend to remember that calling enfolds all the final events of Jesus’ life: Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Sunday. It is a week you cannot parse or splice. If you want one day, you must have them all.
Palm Sunday: exultant and jubilant cries from adoring crowds! How faithful I can be to calling on Palm Sunday, when the chorus of approval sounds! I can write when I am liked and well-thought of, when people agree and commend. I feel so good, and it feels so right.
But there are betrayals ahead. Holy Thursday. This is the loneliness of calling. And I discover my own resistance to God’s plan. Take this cup from me. But maybe this is where courage is born, in the garden of desertion?
Good Friday: Death. I resist the dying of calling. I fight against this death of self, of ambition, of ego, of fear. To follow Jesus into calling is to carry a cross. This cannot be avoided or altered, although the pain may sometimes feel too great to bear. My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?
Easter Sunday: Every death, a resurrection. The victory of God! The tenacity of His purposes! Jesus will not be put down! I write and will the rebirth in me and in my words, realizing with great consolation that I belong to something bigger than myself, a grander story, which stretches across the expanse of, “In the beginning,” and, “I saw a new heaven and a new earth.”
Yes, write–and enter into the story of Jesus.
But remember, if you want one day, you must have them all.