A blank piece of paper, a blank Word document, a blank blog post, a blank journal page. Call it what you will, I’ve had a hard time writing over the last several months. Words have eluded me.
This past July I had the opportunity to attend She Speaks, a women’s writing/speaking/leadership conference in Concord, NC put on by Proverbs 31 Ministries. It was an incredible opportunity to spend three days surrounded by women who got me, glean wisdom from publishers, experienced authors, and speakers, and allow myself the freedom to explore a dream and gift that God planted in my heart as a young girl. This is a dream that I’ve held onto for many years, and until recently, a dream that I’ve allowed to be deeply buried and very rarely shared. I never considered it, even remotely, as a true possibility. While my introverted self was a bit (okay, a lot) intimidated and overwhelmed by the nearly 800 women and one-on-one appointments with publishers, it just felt right. I felt at home. I felt at peace.
The experience stretched me. Did I really just walk up to a table of ladies, all complete strangers, and ask if I could sit with them? It tested me. How was I going to respond to my first (ever) publisher meeting ending halfway through (it was only 15 minutes to begin with) because the agent told me my idea would never work? It fueled me. There’s something about getting to know others, hearing their stories, and realizing that you’re not alone in this, that builds excitement. For the first time, I allowed myself the freedom to consider, maybe this is what I was created to do.
So, what happened?
Funny you should ask. I’ve been asking the very same thing. A few weeks ago, though, I found the answer.
For the past year my husband and I have been a part of a small group that meets weekly at our pastor’s home. We are one of five couples. Our group represents a wide range of ages, life stages, backgrounds, churches, and stories. But, for two hours each week, we come together and enjoy a meal, Bible study, and prayer. It’s been refreshing and encouraging. For 13 months we’ve been in the book of John. Taking small chunks at a time, we’ve immersed ourselves in the narrative of the life of Jesus. We’ve asked questions, shared insight, pondered “I wonder” thoughts, and ultimately looked for what it taught us about the character of God.
As a side note, if you’ve never taken the opportunity to read and study Scripture, out loud, with others, I highly recommend it! It provides a richness and depth of understanding that can’t be replicated elsewhere.
Throughout our time in John, I have found myself drawn to a common theme that has continually captivated me–the strikingly intimate relationship between Jesus and Abba Father, as portrayed through the ever persistent words of Jesus.
John 5:19 “Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.”
John 6:38 “For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.”
John 7:15-16 “The Jews there were amazed and asked, “How did this man get such learning without having been taught?” Jesus answered, “My teaching is not my own. It comes from the one who sent me.”
John 10:30 “I and the Father are one.”
John 14:10 “Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.”
John 14:24 “These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.”
John 17:20-23 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”
Each time we would come across one of these moments, I experienced a sense of awe. I wasn’t sure why, but with each one, the draw began to feel increasingly more profound. Jesus wasn’t making these statements to simply make them. He wasn’t making them in an attempt to boast about how close He was with His Father. I had this growing sense of understanding that He was making them for me, to show me just how important my relationship with Abba needs to be.
A few weeks ago as we read about the promise and role of the Holy Spirit, we talked about how we’ve experienced seasons of feeling very in-tune with the Spirit and hearing God’s voice and in other season’s not so much. During prayer we asked God to help us be more aware. Six days later I found myself with an hour and a half of time on my hands with no responsibilities. After the kids were where they needed to be, the plan was to go sit in the lobby at church to get some work done. As I was driving, though, the Spirit clearly impressed on my heart, “Leave the work. Come spend time with me.”
And so, I did.
The silence, as I sat in the sanctuary, was powerfully intense, but at the same time, flooded with peace. It was an beautiful mix of power and peace that I could physically feel. Without a doubt, it was the presence of the Holy Spirit. For the first time in a long time, I picked up a pen and started dialoguing back and forth with God in written prayer. Suddenly it became clear. This is why I have struggled to write. This is why I have been so drawn to Jesus’ emphasis on the intimacy between He and the Father. I’m drawn to it because that is what He wants with me.
How can I write if I’m not first spending time with the one who gives me the words?
I wish I could paint a more put-together picture, but, as challenging as it may be, I want to be transparent. It’s been a season of struggle. In an article about writer’s block on Wikipedia, it’s said that “a writer may run out of inspiration, or be distracted by other events.” Run out of inspiration? Of course. But, not because there’s a lack of inspiration to be had. I haven’t been intentional about making time and margin to be in God’s presence. Distracted by other events? Absolutely. In a futile attempt to get it all right, to check the boxes off of my to-do list, and to try and make the overwhelming less overwhelming, I lost sight of where my priority needed to be.
As I sat in the silence I prayed.
Lord, please forgive me. If I want to be more like you, if I want to be who you created me to be, I need to spend time with you. When I spend time with you, I know you better, your heart better, and in turn, I know better who you created me to be. If I’m going to discover and live in the freedom to be who you created me to be, I have to make margin for you. I have to make margin to just be. As Moses told the Israelites, You, Lord, will fight for me. I need only to be still.
Recently a friend of mine shared that instead of New Year’s resolutions she spends time praying about what she needs to give to God as a gift. Instead of a goal to be reached, she chooses a gift to give. I like that idea. I really like that idea. I like it so much that I’ve decided that’s how I want to approach this year and this new season. Rather than saying I am going to spend X amount of time praying and read X number of chapters in my Bible a day, I want to give Jesus the gift of time, the gift of me. I want to invite Him to transform me and then give Him the time and space to do it.