After my last post here on Peace Garden Writer, during which time I discussed the blessings of writing for a local audience, a reader pointed out privately some thoughts that humbled me.
Specifically: “As a letter writer, I have a few times been a little embarrassed of the reaction and thanks that it can draw in the public square…I quickly turn the conversation back to the gracious person giving it to me. Everyone likes a little attention, and early on I thought it was somewhat ‘cool’ but now try to avoid any attention, as all praise goes to God.”
I didn’t take the words as condemnation, because I agree wholeheartedly. But they do offer a great chance to go a little deeper in terms of how much stalk we should take in our writing and any compliments that come as a result.
I imagine the temptation to be prideful about one’s writing is something that every writer has faced at one time or another — especially those who are aware of the pitfalls of pride. Because of the sheer nature of our work, it’s always there, lurking around the corner.
What we do is public, and when we receive commendations for our writing, it could easily, if we’re not aware and ready, go to our heads. We might begin to imagine, in error, that we’re so great to produce such beautiful sentence structures, when in fact God gave us this gift for one main purpose: to draw others to Him.
|At Gooseberry Park, Lake Superior, Minnesota
We don’t have to be writers of faith to have this mission, but if we are people of faith it is inherent in everything we do. Even fiction writers can create works full of truth, goodness and beauty, and it is these things that inspire us all toward God.
My heroine Flannery O’Connor wrote in her letters about this; how everything comes back to God and God’s purposes. Seeing it this way is a freedom, because we can relieve ourselves of the pressure of being perfect in our writing. We are here to be a vessel. Through our pen, we create sentences that will either draw people to truth, beauty and goodness, or lead them away from it. In that way, we are missionaries and prophets, all. But it is God who works through us, not we who own it all.
If God wishes to use our writing to draw people to Him, He will. The best we can do is continue to form ourselves to God, and the rest will follow. From there, what we write will be of God, even when it appears to be of human fashioning, because at the heart of it will be a divine light.
So it’s true that all glory goes to God. Anything good that I have to say originated first in the heart of God. When people talk of any of my writing as inspiring or good or truthful, I necessarily must point it back to God. I cannot take the credit. I know that.
Thinking of it this way does not dehumanize me, or make me feel unworthy, or present a blow to my self-esteem. It places things in the right perspective, propels me onward with confidence (knowing I do not go it alone) and allows me to truly shine light where it is most deserving.
If I can be an instrument for the divine, there is nothing I can imagine that would bring me, and God, greater honor. It is a joy to serve in this way.
Q4U: Have you ever been tempted to believe it’s all about you? What helped you see otherwise?