I’ll never forget the first hour of my first writers conference.
I had flown all the way from California to Minneapolis because God had called me to write… and I had no idea what to do. But I figured someone would tell me at what I thought was the only Christian writers conference in the universe.
With my cafeteria lunch on a tray, I sat by myself in a booth. But a group of women soon descended on me, sliding into all the physical and airwave spaces.
“Where are you from?” and “Why did you come?” they asked.
Soon I learned that they all had stories. Abuse. Divorce. Neglect. Cancer. Job loss.
I did my best not to look wide-eyed from the frank details of their lives, quickly learning there is no such thing as small talk among writers. No, writer talk is echo-like cavernous or Grand Canyon-esque or oceanic dark-storm-turned-sunset-beautiful.
But then the question turned to me. “Why did you come, Janet?”
And I only had three words: “I don’t know” …followed with a summer rain of tears.
My life wasn’t perfect, but I had no dramatic story. God had said, “I want you to write for me” at a women’s retreat earlier that year, and I had no articles or devotions or book proposals. All I had was the Lord’s seven words echoing in my head.
In the 1991 film City Slickers Billy Crystal’s character drags his three friends on yet another adventure to escape their boring lives and prove their manhood on a cattle drive. In one scene the crusty old cowboy played by Jack Palance tells Crystal’s disillusioned character that the secret to life is “one thing.”
Billy asks what that one thing is.
And Jack says, “That’s what you gotta figure out.”
We Christian writers probably all have our one thing in common: we know God has called us to write. That calling may have come in different ways—a lifelong passion, encouragement from others, a word from God, or a wild, unexplainable a-ha moment.
Writer friends, it is important to hang on to that one thing—that calling—because the calling doesn’t mean the writing/publishing dominoes will all fall into place with the breath of our words.
Joseph in the Old Testament found that to be true. God gave him dreams that clearly represented a calling to greatness (Genesis 37). But when he shared his dreams with his brothers, they resented him, and his father rebuked him. Then his brothers sold him to merchants who hauled him off to Egypt.
Much like Joseph, we may experience resentment or even ridicule when we share our calling with our family and friends. And even if they do encourage us to “do our thing,” we may find they don’t buy our books or read our blogs.
The most important takeaway from the Joseph story, though, is Joseph’s faithfulness. He did not step right into greatness. In fact, he lived thirteen years in prison for something he did not do. Despite all that, he stayed true to his faith, and because of his eventual position of power, he saved his family and thus, the future twelve tribes of Israel.
His success was less for himself but more for future generations.
The writing life is hard. Most of us experience more rejection than acceptance. Discouragement stabs us, and doubt wields an occasional hammer. Early in my writing career I got thirteen rejections for a single article. After that last rejection, I took another look at that personal experience story and took out a bitter scene. It sold on the next submission.
There’s a fine walk between experiencing discouragement and determining to be humble and teachable. The rejection we experience will develop our character and drive us to become better at our craft . . . if we choose faithfulness.
What will guide us through those seasons of waiting and disappointment is the assurance of God’s calling and his perfect, sovereign timing and connection. While we may never have an influence list like Joseph’s or experience the signet ring of a contract, we will always have God’s Word to remind us this:
“God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50:20 NIV).
When our words point others to God and his Word, we are living out our calling in life-changing ways.
Question: How have you experienced God’s call to write? I’d love to read your comments.
About Janet McHenry
Janet McHenry is the author of 25 traditionally published books—eight on prayer, including the bestselling PrayerWalk and The Complete Guide to the Prayers of Jesus. The creator of an online Teachable course called Prayer School, she is also a speaker, writing coach, and the host of the Sierra Valley Writers Retreat. The community manager for the She Writes for Him Tribe, Janet weekly teaches writers and loves watching lightbulbs go on! She and her husband Craig have lived in the Sierra Valley for the last forty years, where he is a rancher and where they raised their four kids. She offers a free e-book called Prayer Helps on her website, where you can contact her and follow her social media links: www.janetmchenry.com.