Writing Our Stories (While Inside a Ticking Clock)
by Terry L. Craig
Even Jesus, with all of eternity stretched out behind and in front of him, knew his days to walk this earth as a man were limited. He only had so much time to accomplish the will of the Father, and he once asked his disciples,
“How long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you?" — Matthew 17:17b, NIV
Did you ever stop to think about how much of what Jesus said and did made so little sense at the moment? Of the thousands of people he actually spoke to and touched, how many were true disciples the day he hung on the cross? Why did He spend all that time talking, praying, teaching, and healing? Because Jesus did what his Father told him to do, and trusted his Father with the timing of the results.
The clock for Jesus' time here started ticking down the moment he was conceived. Once he took up his public ministry, he must have felt the hours slipping by faster as the pain and darkness of the cross approached. Here's the irony though: Although Jesus never wasted a moment or an opportunity, we see times when he didn't engage people in the expected ways, there are times when he didn't do the expected or expedient thing. While aware of what he still had to accomplish during the time left, he wasn't rushed along. He didn't allow himself to get squeezed into the expectations (or the threats) of men. And, a day after reaching a ministry pinnacle, he gave himself to the cross. None of it made sense—till later.
Time is a measurement of my life on earth. I should be mindful of the pulse of this physical existence, but time isn't my master, God is—and his plans for me are eternal.
I can let myself dance (or type) to the tune of this world, thinking, If I don't play along with how the world does it, I'll never get anywhere! Or, I can tell myself time doesn't matter at all and keep stalling while I say, "God will line up every door and open all of them before he expects me to do anything." Both of these thoughts demonstrate a lack of faith.
God's timing, understanding, love, and perspective are perfect—it's ours that are so often out of kilter. The Father's plan was to use the story (the news) of the life, words, works, death, and resurrection of Jesus for a purpose that none of the disciples could see before the cross. But, in the days, years, centuries, and millennia since then, people are still getting those Aha! moments when they read about something Jesus said or did and it suddenly finds a spot in their hearts and minds.
In that same way, if God is calling you to write, know that he has a purpose but also know that he's not obligated to reveal his whole plan to you.
I can remember when I first felt a call from the Lord to write a book. I had SO MANY expectations of how long it would take, how it would all transpire, how it would be published, etc. I had even more thoughts about how it would be received, what God was trying to say through me, and how it would all flow out from there. It's been a long journey and a lot has happened. I've written books, scores of articles, and studies—and also publish the works of other authors, but I can tell you that virtually nothing has gone the way I planned. There have been times of excitement, discouragement, celebration, tragedy, joy, sorrow, and struggles with the Lord over HIS plans/timing for my life. I'm still a work in progress, I'm still learning how to walk with Jesus in the midst of all the stuff that life throws my way.
What I can tell anyone who is called to write:
You must resolve in your heart (sometimes daily) that you're walking with the Lord on this writing journey and you need to let HIM decide what happens with it and when. He may use something you write to make a big splash right now . . . or it may change the lives of readers long after you've gone home to heaven. Maybe the one person he intends to touch is YOU. You don't get to decide where this journey will go.
Sometimes, it isn't writer's block, it's God telling you to wait or change the direction of your writing. Maybe you're going at something from the wrong angle. Maybe you're presenting a skewed or incomplete view. Maybe you just need to clear your head for a while. Maybe the "commercial" thing isn't on God's agenda. But when God is quiet . . . don't keep saying stuff just to fulfill some content quota. There will be an ebb and flow to it. Sometimes it's an exhilarating ride, other times you'll feel like you're walking through a graveyard in the dark, but make sure you're walking with Jesus wherever you are.
Don't wait for perfect circumstances before you start. If you do, you might as well put away your pen (or keyboard).
Don't let adversity stop you. Sometimes the greatest inspiration comes while (or just after) we walk through dark valleys.
Don't use your words to get revenge (not even in fiction). It's a dangerous waste of your time. I can't tell you how many people I've seen fall away when they took up the pen to retaliate against a denomination, a church, a pastor, or a person who injured them in some way. I get it. In this world, revenge, bitterness, and controversy sell. It's easy to interpret a new-found prosperity and popularity for validation, then continue down a path that both grieves and angers the Lord . . . then tumble away from faith. God says that vengeance belongs to HIM. (Rom. 12:19, Lev 19:18; Pr 20:22; 24:29, Dt 32:35; Ge 50:19; 1Sa 26:10; Ps 94:1; Jer 51:36)
Don't let sugary fans or bitter critics determine your course. ASK the Lord for truth, embrace it when he reveals it (even when it's a correction).
Know whose you are, why you are here in general, and what God may be asking you to do with the time you have right now. Then settle—yes, I said settle—for living out those things, or you will waste your life being depressed (or elated) over tasks that you weren't called to accomplish in the first place.
For those who are called to write, it's more than a job or a hobby. It's something that abides in us night and day. We each should hear the ticking clock . . . but know that we are already part of eternity.
"Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." — Psalm 90:12 NIV
"You’ve all been to the stadium and seen the athletes race. Everyone runs; one wins. Run to win. All good athletes train hard. They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades. You’re after one that’s gold eternally."—1 Corinthians 9:24, The Message
© Terry L. Craig 2017