Do you ever ponder what you would have written on your tombstone? I don’t even want a tombstone, just scatter my ashes where you will; but I think about what I would like inscribed on one if it did exist. I remember reading Thomas Jefferson specifically wrote out his inscription, “Here was buried Thomas Jefferson; Author of the Declaration of American Independence of the Statute of Virginia for religious freedom; Father of the University of Virginia” ("Jeffersons-Gravestone"). If you know your American history at all, you know Mr. Jefferson achieved a whole lot more than that (such as being the third President of the United States). But these two accomplishments seem the most important to him.
If you could choose something, you’d want it to be profound. To really encapsulate you. So, here are my top three (hats off to you if you can narrow it down to one) 1) Teacher of God’s Word 2) Disciple of Jesus Christ 3) A Writer.
That last one I type out with such humility. It sounds like I aspire to be the next John Grisham. Hey, I write! But again, if I am honest, in looking back, God prepared me to be a writer. He didn’t exactly tell me what I was going to write, if anyone was ever going to read it or if my writing would be any good to anyone but me; but he gifted me with an ability to put words down on paper with clarity. I can tell a story, express my feelings, communicate well. I am a writer.
And most writers dream of writing a book. I am no different. I have thought about book ideas, started dozens of short stories aspiring to find a novel in there somewhere. I enjoy writing devotionals and preparing talks for ladies’ events. But I always felt like I was in a holding pattern. Not doing exactly what God had for me but learning about doing it. Then, once I had mastered the art of writing, by somewhat skirting around the idea of writing, I would actually write.
As a writer, I also love to read. The best students make the best teachers, the best readers make the best writers; certainly theories proved true. And a few weeks ago I read a book by one of my best friends. Well, actually, we have never met but I love to read so much that often I read a book and just know if I lived on the same street as the author, in the same town, and we both took our kids to the same church and school, we’d be best friends.
So, I was reading Shauna Niequist’s book, Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, & Learning the Hard Way and about halfway through the book is a chapter entitled, “Love song for fall.” It describes her writing process and how many excuses she can find to not write. Also how hard it is for her to write. I was stopped in my reading tracks. And I quote:
“Today I need to end a season of time wasting, fear, obsessive blog-reading, and totally nonessential Wikipedia research... Writing is a mind game for me, and I’m not above some tricks to get me out of this terrible stuck place I’ve been for about six weeks, maybe longer" (ch. 26).
Huh, Shauna, try 39 years on pause. Hey, I’m a writer too.
She goes on to remind her readers, and thus me, how we were made to create. All of us. To create something.
“If you were made to create, you won’t feel whole and healthy and alive until you do" (ch. 26).
OK, she had my attention. Then, she hit the proverbial nail on the head.
“I know there are some artists who create around the clock, who feel art coursing through their very veins, who can go without sleep and food and human interaction for days while they revel in the rich universe of their own minds. But I think those artists are very rare, or maybe they’re fibbing. I think for most of us, it’s hard work, fraught with fear and self-consciousness, and that it’s much easier to make dinner or mow the lawn or reply to emails” (ch. 26).
Wait a minute, Shauna (yes, we’re on a first name basis. She’s my best friend, remember?!), you mean writing is work for you? You with a famous dad, a mission-minded mom and an English degree? It’s work for you?
Lest it had yet to sink into my stubborn mind, I continued reading,
“We make art by putting time for it on the calendar with all the glamour of scheduling a dental cleaning. We sit down and work. We pray and stare out the window and force ourselves to keep typing. We stay in our chairs and fight the urge to fold the laundry, desperate for something to control, something orderly and safe instead of the wild, untamed world of our own secret feelings and imaginations” (ch. 26).
So, I am taking the advice I received from a Christian sister (that beats best friend any day in my book). She assures me that writing is hard work. Even when you recognize a God-given gift, it doesn’t come easily or instantly. I still don’t know where writing will take me. I just know I enjoy creating. I write words, sentences, paragraphs that I love. Then, there are more of the same I absolutely hate. Ugh, who would want to read that? Writing in silence means the enemy tries to mess with you. But even more so, Jesus shows up. So, I am a writer. Whether it’s inscribed on my tombstone someday or not.
Monticello; Home of Thomas Jefferson, February 2003. Thomas Jefferson, Foundation, Inc. Nov. 25, 2003. <htttp://www.monticello.org/site/research-and-collections/Jeffersons-Gravestone>.
Niequist, Shauna. Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010. Kindle file.