When I asked Yvonne Anderson (as we were discussing her latest release in the Gateway to Gannah series), what God had called her to do with her writing, her interest led me to ask her to write a guest post on the topic. When I received this yesterday, I was excited to read it. I hope you enjoy it as I have. Being convinced for most of my life that I couldn’t write, this is an interesting tale for me. Maybe it more closely matches your call. The path upon which the Lord leads each of us varies widely. But the core is always the same. Following the Lord’s lead on your personal strait & narrow path.
What has God called me to do with my writing
When we receive Christ by faith, the Spirit gives us certain gifts for the purpose of ministering to and edifying the church (Romans 12: 6-8 and all of I Corinthians 12).
By virtue of our humanness, we have innate talents—sometimes also called gifts—given to us with no strings attached. We neither chose nor earned any of these gifts, so they’re nothing to brag about. But neither should we hide them under a bushel. Surely God wouldn’t have given us these abilities if He didn’t want us to use them.
The first time you sit down at the piano, though, you don’t play a Chopin sonata. A sculptor’s first work won’t be Venus De Milo, and a ballerina doesn’t get to be prima until she’s been at it a long while. From the time I was in third or fourth grade, I knew I could write. But I never took my ability seriously—that is, I never made any effort to use it—until middle age. That was when I learned I had a lot to learn! Having the gift is only a start.
Developing it into something useful is a lifelong journey.
For a Christian, that would be “developing it into something the Lord can use.”
You might say it’s a matter of give and take. God gives you the gift; you take it (i.e., you don’t bury it) and give it back to Him as you work at developing it. You sit at the feet of masters of the craft and take the teaching they offer. Then, using what you learn, you share your gift with others around you—all the while giving it to God. In other words, you serve as both a receptacle and a dispenser, receiving what God gives you only to pour it back to Him.
The question was posed: What has God called me to do with my writing, and what are His purposes for Christian writers today?
This two-fold question has a single answer: Whatever He wants.
God tells mankind what He wants of us: to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with Him (Micah 6:8). To love Him with all that is within us, and to love others as ourselves (Mark 12:29-31). To keep His commandments (John 14:15). For a writer, this boils down to reverencing God in our work, portraying His attributes accurately, and allowing our writing to show our love for Him and others.
“Yeah, I get that,” you may say. “But those are general things. What specifically am I to do with the writing talent He’s given me?”
That’s where Psalm 119:105 comes in: Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. This points out two things: first, we can’t know where we’re going unless we keep hold of God’s word and allow its light to illuminate our way. Secondly, it’s a lamp, not a floodlight; we’re not going to see very far ahead.
We can’t know where the next step is until we take the first one.
If you’re like me, you’d like some concrete examples of this. Perhaps you’ll find it helpful to see some of the steps God has led me through on my writing journey:
When our four kids were old enough that they weren’t always under foot, I took it into my silly head to try writing a novel. On a typewriter – we didn’t have a computer at the time. I didn’t know why I was doing it. Perhaps just to see if I could, though I don’t recall ever entertaining any thought of doing it before. Whatever my motive, I finished it, and it was so much fun that I wrote another one. I never tried to market either of them. It seemed a colossal waste of time, so I gave it up, presumably for good.
Four or five years later, we got a computer. The older kids were grown and gone and the younger ones were in high school. My hours at work were cut to 12 hours a week, leaving me with a good bit of time to do whatever I wanted. One morning in February of 2002 as I cleaned up after breakfast, I pondered what I should do that day, thinking it a wondrous thing to have time to myself. That’s when a thought whapped me upside the head. You need to write a book. Been there, done that, ain’t doin’ it again. You need to write a book. Oh, come on, are You serious? You have a computer. You have the time. You need to write a book. About what? Just get started. It’ll come.
So, after some serious prayer (“Please, Lord, I don’t want to do this if it’s really not what You want!” You need to write a book. “Okay, I’ll do it, but only until You tell me to stop. And I hope that will be soon.”), I sat down at the computer and stared at the blank screen for a while. After a very short time, I knew what I wanted to write. Once I started, I hardly came up for air for the next nine months, at the end of which I’d hammered out a 200,000-word disaster.
Then I said, “Okay, what now?”
I remembered having heard of something called an online writers’ critique group. I was new to computers, but I did know what Google was, so I did a search for that phrase. The first thing that caught my eye was a group for Christian writers. Which I joined, and through which I got an intense – and intensely painful – education. And met some fellow students with whom I’m still friends, through whom I’ve made even more contacts and learned even more things about the writing craft as well as the writing industry – all the while daily praying, “As soon as You want me to quit, let me know, and I will,” and then after a couple of years, “Please, may I stop now?” But, whenever I came to a crossroad, the light was green, so I kept going.
This went on for a few agonizing years until the Lord mercifully allowed me to pull over at a rest stop. I was in the throes of such frustration and discouragement that I said, “I’m done. I’m never writing fiction again.” I sensed an indulgent Go ahead and take a break. And so I did
During that hiatus, I ran across an interesting little piece of nonfiction called The Gospel in the Stars by Joseph A. Seiss, a reprint of a book written in 1882. It put forth the theory that when God created the heavens and the earth, He portrayed the gospel message in the constellations for early man to “read.” The idea captured my imagination, and I decided to write – just for fun, mind you; no one would ever read it – a story in which the characters discovered this “story in the stars.” And so the Gateway to Gannah series was conceived. (It had a long gestation period.)
If you knew me before, you’d find this amusing. Why? Because, for one thing, I viewed Christian fiction with a certain amount of disdain. It was almost always romance, and romance novels have always made me roll my eyes and groan. Besides that, every Christian novel I’d ever read (which, at that point, only amounted to three or four titles) was poorly written. Moreover, I didn’t care for science fiction, thinking it either too technical, or too dark and depressing. (Again, I hadn’t read much because it didn’t appeal to me.) So for God to put me to work writing Christian science fiction was pretty surprising. Laughable, really. Proof that God has a marvelous sense of humor.
And proof that none of this was my idea. I merely heard the Spirit whisper and followed where He led—and, as often happens, He led me places I never expected to go. But once I started on the journey, I realized it was where I belonged.
That was in about 2006. I published the fourth and last book in the Gannah series in October of 2014. People ask me what’s next, but I don’t have a ready answer. It’s not that I have no ideas, because I have a number of them. But nothing’s showing up in the lamplight on the path. For now, apparently, I’m at a rest stop again.
God gives each of us abilities for a purpose, just as He gives us life for a purpose. The purpose for both is for His pleasure (Revelation 4:11). For His pleasure. Not ours.
Funny thing, though: when we live for His pleasure, we find deep satisfaction that the unbelieving world might wish for but can never achieve.
God not only gives us abilities, but He gives us experiences. He teaches us through His word, through human teachers, through the unique set of difficulties and triumphs and heartaches of our day-to-day lives. He gives us all these things so that we can pour it back out to Him in worship.
What should I write? What should you write? Fiction or nonfiction? What genre? Full-length book or article? For what audience, and on what topic? How do I sell what I write? Can I earn a living at it? What expert advice should I follow to further my career? Only God has the answers to these and a myriad of related questions—and the answers might not be anywhere close to what we expect.
But when we consider our lives to be His for His pleasure, not ours—when we’re willing to follow the light of His word one step at a time—we can be certain He’ll lead us to pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:11). And that will be far sweeter than any “success” we could possibly dream of.