Most writers I know—including me—are neurotic. I don’t mean writers like pastors who transcribe sermon notes into books. Or business executives who, with the help of ghostwriters, translate business plans into how-to success manuals. I mean writers who define their life work as wordsmithing and regularly spill their guts onto a page for the rest of the world to love or hate.
I have a whole bookshelf in my office reserved for books by famous writers, describing how they handle those inevitable times when they lose the war with the blank page and confess to their computer screen, “I’ve got nothin’.”
Years ago during one such dry season, I signed up for a writing class with a woman who was an adjunct instructor at the Univ. of Chicago, an institution known for cranking out Pulitzer and Nobel prize winners.
She was an Indian woman, probably 5’ tall, if she stood up straight. She had a long braid down her back that reached her waist and was smarter than the combined IQ of the entire class. What she lacked in size, she more than made up for with her daunting personae. And she was serious as a heart attack about writing.
About 15 min. into the first class, I thought I had been dropped into Dante’s Fifth Level of Hell. It was Boot Camp on steroids. Anyone who signed up for a fun place to write little essays was in for a rough ride.
The first four weeks I was terrified. The next four weeks I hated her guts. Then followed a couple weeks of awe at what was coming out of my fingertips onto paper. (Who IS this person? This is really good stuff!) Then back to the terror part. (That was a fluke. I’ll never be able to write like this when my life is no longer in danger.)
Recently, when sorting through old office files, I ran across some of those writing assignments. I sat on the floor, surrounded by mountains of paperwork, mesmerized by the transformation I witnessed, over the course of my semester in her class. I kept thinking, “How did she do that?” How was she able to pull that ‘personal best’ out of me?”
I don’t know all the reasons, but I can name a few: I wanted what she had to offer, so I kept coming back each week, when every molecule in my body screamed, “Run!” I had a passion to write and she had a passion to help me do it.
Secondly, she gave me no wiggle room. Excuses were not an option. Students may have picked her class, but, if they stayed, it was on her terms. Nothing short of death gave any of us an “out.”
Reading those old essays helped me understand how God operates. I want something God has to offer–I want to live an authentic, fully alive life that reflects His values, His heart, and His agenda. But He’s no celestial “Easy” button I can manipulate to do things my way, on my timetable. I may have chosen to enter into a relationship with Him, but if I want all the benefits He offers, He insists I do it on His terms.
Like my writing instructor, He pushes me relentlessly into territory where I’m uncomfortable and terrified. Matters requiring trust, waiting, unanswered prayers– situations where my intelligence, determination, and gifts are of value only if submitted to His purposes.
Sometimes His tactics scare me. At other times I step back in awe and see who I’m becoming under his severe tutelage. I’ve loved Him, hated Him, and thumped on His chest until my fingers hurt. He’s not interested in my excuses. He’s interested in what kind of person I’ll be when our real-life Boot Camp ends on planet Earth and the prize is in sight.
I suspect, someday, if we don’t give up and run, we’ll be sitting on the floor somewhere, looking back over the assignments He’s put us through, and thinking, “How did He do that? How was He able to get me from there to there?”
Maybe the more important question we should be asking is, “What took me so long to ‘get with the program.’ “