A few days ago, my mind tired as I worked on several writing projects. I attempted to sort jumbled thoughts, and was interrupted more than once: a question, a phone call, another question, a knock on the front door, and on it went.
Writing is costly, measured by internal, invisible processes. Clear, honest writing requires a devotion to thinking–reworking strings of ideas with precision, urging words to rise, sparkle, and then leap gracefully to the page. Creative yet tamed sentences– tethered to the pages by way of neat, straight lines. I am convinced that every author bleeds out at least five different ways with every finished piece as they offer up their poetry or prose to the world.
A writer is an expectant mother, suffering through queasy days and thickening waistline, carrying a weight that no one, no matter how considerate, may shoulder. When the agony of labor quickens a mother screams, promising herself and anyone within earshot: no more babies. Yet months later, holding that bundle of sweet life, she is already daydreaming of future place settings to round out the dinner table. The pregnancy and delivery are the crushing hardships. The joy? This child before her.
So it is with writing. When the words flow–a gentle, pretty stream–it is fun to keep pace, sentences glowing in radiant sunbeams, rushing over rocks and leaves and branches, clear and cold and alive. But when the words slow in their pining for completion, there is a painful struggle, this yearning for winsome clarity.
Once the story is finally born into the world of readership, the writer is flooded with relief, albeit temporarily. Within days the entire process begins yet again– shaking the bushes for the next piece of fruit. Truth to unpeel for the reader.
Some writers are suited to work in fits and spurts, here and there in the midst of noise and mayhem and interruption, phones jingling and doorbells ringing, coffee meetings and lunch dates, happily picking up just where they left off, for the fifteenth time.
I wish this approach worked for me, but it does not.
When I am in the midst of writing, in the throes of working out ideas, I type quickly, hearing the song in my head and striving to keep up. Every time I am interrupted, I lose tempo as the music fades.
So I begin again, seated in my office, welcoming the sunshine through twin windows. Assigned writing days are cordoned off in my day planner. George Winston’s piano music flutters softly in the background –the only noise as I work, save two snoring dogs at my feet. Long jags of uninterrupted time–solitude– to consider and then to write.
On this particular day my exhausted mind–coupled with repeated interruptions–had fallen to mush. I stared at my rambling, pathetic paragraphs, and realized that the whole shebang, from beginning to end, was a perfect mess. It sounded dreadful. I no longer even knew what I was trying to say which was disheartening.
So I stood up and stretched, gazing out my office windows thus taking in a panoramic view. Pine cones dotted our large front yard, and the sun filtered through swaying treetops by way of gentle breeze. I prayed in that moment, as I often do, for God to guide me. He brought a Scripture to mind. One that I had lingered over the previous week:
But my servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit and has followed me fully, I will bring into the land which he went, and his descendants shall possess it. (Numbers 14:24)
The verse is brimming with richness–do you see it? Does your heart begin to thud as does mine when I read the entire story?
Caleb was rewarded for his faith and obedience. Isn’t it interesting that God sent spies to scout a property that he already knew by heart? It was a test. How many believed?
Of the twelve spies, only Caleb and Joshua believed God wholeheartedly. They reported their findings in broad, sweeping coverage: land flowing with milk and honey and grapes and even giants, but most importantly the protection of God himself. I can feel their courage, their stalwart faith through their description.
God rewarded Caleb and Joshua for their belief –a delayed prize–received after forty long years of painful meandering. The very two that God rewarded were the men that the people of Israel wanted to stone to death. The crowd capitulated to the ten naysayers, fear swelling high and at fevered pitch–an ugly, ugly, contagion.
Only two out of twelve recognized Canaan as holy, this terra firma gifted by God. Thousands of years have passed, and little has changed. (Matthew 7:13-14)
The question always circles back: May God be trusted in everything? Do I believe that he is the author of my life, down to the smallest of details? Is anything outside of his sovereign hand–interruptions, sheer exhaustion, days of poor writing?
Psalm 115:3 – Our God is in heaven; he does all that he pleases.
Proverbs 19:21 – Many are the plans in the mind of man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.
A spirit like Caleb’s, believing and trusting and worshipping God fully, moment-by-moment, regardless of consequences, burns hot. Those flames are colossal, taller than any giant, throwing light throughout this darkened world.
Caleb was fearless.
He knew that God was on his side.
I considered Old Testament Caleb as I tucked my writing notes in my desk drawer and walked out of our home and into our yard. Bending down, I picked up pine cones, scattered liberally, tossing them into trash bags as I cleaned our yard piece by piece. I listened to the birds singing, a dog barking in the distance, squirrels rustling through the woods. My thoughts turned to God, the utter mystery of his perfect will, a golden tapestry of goodness. I thanked him for every breath, pure grace.
My shoulders began to relax as I labored. It felt good to physically sweat and mentally chill, clearing both the yard and my mind.
In less than two hours the job was complete. I returned indoors and leashed our two golden retrievers, offering them a stroll around the yard, unhurried. They sniffed leaves and grass, ears perking up as two squirrels chased each other up a tree. I turned my face fully toward the sunshine and closed my eyes, drawing a deep breath, while basking in the unusual warmth of this February day.
I had returned to an unhurried and patient place, trusting God in the intricate minutiae, asking him to give me the words to write, in his time and in his way.