About a week ago, I shared my struggles with discouragement. It’s funny how often I want to keep these internal struggles to myself, to present a false image of spirituality to others, but I am beginning to realize how important authenticity is. In my latest novel (still in the editing stages) the majority of Alice and Trent’s struggles arise from self-isolation. Sure, they’ve got issues. Major issues. (Don’t we all?) But I think their issues would be much more manageable if they would only reach out and let others help them. We weren’t meant to go it alone. As I like to say, we’ve all got skeletons in our closet but they’ll never go away if we keep the doors locked.
I think there’s something freeing about open, honest confession–when we share our deepest struggles with one another and allow others to help us. Not only does it free us to live truly authentic lives, it also adds a level of accountability. When I shared my struggles with discouragement with you, it added an additional level of motivation to overcome them. And now, when I share my first step on this road of truth-claiming, (I call it this because I am tossing out the lies and laying hold to the truth I have in Christ), knowing my previous struggles, you can rejoice with me. So it’s a win-win situation!
The other night I was over-tired. I had company coming from Uruguay and I really wanted to finish the first draft of my current novel before they arrived, so I was pulling some horrendous hours. Mind-numbing, eye-blurring hours. But I did it! By Monday night, I had written almost 89,000 words and had three scenes left and one more day to write them. No problem, right? After two months (I write fast. Either that or I’m slightly ocd, but that’s another post.) I could finally see the finish line. You’d think I’d be rejoicing, but I wasn’t. As I set my computer aside, a wave of discouragement washed over me, threatening to steal my joy of accomplishment. Self-doubt spewed through my mind like popcorn kernels popping off a hot kettle and those tiny little weeds of doubt tried to sink their roots into my heart.
So what did I do? I grabbed my weed-killer! The first thing I did was make the determination that I would not, would not, absolutely would not, allow those nasty thoughts to camp out in my brain. I threw them out like the trash they were. I have a phrase I like to repeat to myself when I am frightened, discouraged or sad. It’s “Just you and me God.” I find myself saying that a lot, but it reminds me that none of this peripheral junk matters. God loves me, and I’m holding on to Him, and whether my novels thrive or flop is inconsequential.
And then I went to bed, in peace. The next morning as I was reading my Bible, God spoke words of encouragement that both reaffirmed my commitment the night before and strengthened my heart to complete the final leg of my first. It came from two verses. The first I just happened upon as I was flipping to my page marker. It was in Exodus 34:6 and it reminded me of who God is.
“Then the LORD came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the LORD. And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness…”
I tucked this in the back pocket of my mind and moved on to the Psalms. I follow along verse by verse and just happened to be on Psalm 139 this morning. We’ve all heard this passage a hundred times and would be quick to agree with its premise. We are created by God, known by God, loved by God and guided by God. But this morning, verse 16 jumped out at me.
Psalm 139: 16 “Your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be.”
Putting those two verses together annihilated any remaining weeds and filled my heart with excitement for the day to come because I knew whether this novel soared or fell flat on its face, it was all part of God’s plan for me. All of my days are written in His book, even those I may initially deem to be failures. And because God is a God of love and mercy, even those painful days when I feel like I have egg on my face are steps forward as God works out His loving plan. Which means all I have to do is take that next step, resting in His loving, guiding and protecting hand.
You may be happy to know that I completed my novel and I am now working on a book proposal which I hope to present to an agent by the end of the month, and I’m sure a few weeds will try to sprout as insecurities fight for prominence, but laying hold of the promises in these two verses, I’ve already got my hand on the trigger! Watch out crabgrass, here I come!
Just you and me, God. Just you and me.