What are your excuses when you know God is whispering something into your heart? Are you afraid to speak to that person you notice across the room? Do you consider your life too busy to help your neighbor? When you know you’ve hurt someone, do you refuse to ask forgiveness and seek reconciliation? Did you shrink from a task, because you didn’t feel qualified, didn’t want to share your resources or didn’t think the person worthy? Did you consider the job too overwhelming?
When I resigned from my position as Director of Children’s ministry in December 1993, I felt a desire from God to write. Since I loved working with children, the logical path pointed towards children’s literature. After all, I’d written curriculum for summer programs and newsletters–how hard could it be? Keeping with the theme, the staff at the church presented me with Dr. Seuss’ book, Oh the Places You’ll Go!
Write, I didn’t do, but GO, I did. My husband retired from his government job a few months later and we hit the road. The idea of writing lay dormant while we traveled the country, bought a small beach house and spent a few winter weeks in Florida every year.
But in all our adventures, God’s plan for me to write didn’t disappear. Somewhere I read that writers could improve their craft by reading. While we traveled, I read hundreds of books. Given my age, I had to make a list to keep from selecting the same ones twice. When I received a Kindle for Christmas, I downloaded volumes of romance novels. In addition to Christian fiction authors like Karen Kingsbury and Francine Rivers, I also read authors like Nicholas Sparks and Debbie Macomber.
Occasionally, I came across books which were poorly written and published with little editing. I even stumbled upon a few romance novels that made me blush. The idea of reading to improve writing skills seemed unproductive. “Even I can write better than that!” became my constant whine.
In February 2012, our church had a series of sermons and studies based on Mark Batterson’s book, The Circle Maker. During the sermon on circling your goals, the “nudge” to write resurfaced, and with the encouragement of a friend, I went home and spent the afternoon writing a story which had been playing in my head for years. Though children were involved, the book wasn’t written with them in mind. My heart leaned toward adults who had wandered from their faith and needed to reconcile with God.
The next seven years were spent learning to write. I joined a writer’s fellowship, attended workshops and read everything I could on the art of writing. A few negative critiques had me complaining to God. “I can’t do this. I haven’t taken the first journalism course; I can’t afford to attend all these conferences; besides, I’m too old.” With every excuse, I chastised myself for not obeying when God first spoke the desire into my heart.
Despite all my excuses, God still used me to fulfill His goal through me. A few days before my seventy-fourth birthday in February 2019, my debut novel, By the Sea, was released.
Thinking about my lame excuses, reminded me of some biblical characters who also complained when God called them to a specific task. Moses shook in his sandals at the thought of pleading God’s case before Pharaoh. Isaiah thought himself a man of unclean lips. Peter arrived at Pentecost in discouragement and defeat. Defending his traditions, the Apostle Paul blindly persecuted God’s people. He was struck with physical blindness before he could receive the spiritual vision and call from God. Regardless of their situations, God used each of these men to fulfill his purpose for that time in history.
God never asked us to do something without having a plan. All he wants are willing servants–ready to put his plan into action. His Holy Spirit goes before us to make a way and prepare us for the task. He teaches, strengthens, encourages and guides. We should never allow the fear of man, discouragement or any other excuse to keep us from obeying the ideas God whispers into our hearts.
Though writers are discouraged from using clichés, I take issue with the saying, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks!” We’re never too old to learn something new or to be used by God. Thank God that I didn’t shrink back from my desire to write. He prompted me with the challenge and equipped me for the task.
May we each be willing to see with God’s vision; love those he loves; do what we see him doing; go where he wants us to go; give what he wants us to give, speak what he wants us to say and write what he wants us to write–His message of love to the world!