Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Advent 2017 # 20: God's Promise is Worth the Wait

A lot can change in three years, and it has. (I've written some of what you're about to read before, but I'm repeating it to make a more complete "whole" to this story. Please bear with me.)

In fall of 2014, I took a break from medicine to write. I fully expected to return to practice in a few months, but I planned to enjoy the holidays while I wrote. 

Everything changed in November, and it was partly the mayor's fault. An email promoting National Novel Writing Month arrived in my inbox. My town could be a "Come Write In" site, it suggested. 

I loved the idea, so I set to work. My fellow aldermen and our mayor agreed. I ordered vinyl decals for the door, special bookmarks, and, together, we set up two donated computer terminals for the potential novelists. I posted the opportunity on social media and talked to anyone who'd listen. I begged people to give novel writing a try.

"What if no one comes to write?" the mayor asked. 

"They will. But if they don't, I'll do it myself," I joked. 

The Mayor wasn't kidding. No one came. She held me to my flippant word, so I sat down and wrote the first sentence of fiction I'd ever written, and another, and another. Pretty soon I had a paragraph, a page, a chapter. 

I wrote more than 50,000 words that month, and called it a novel. In retrospect, it was terrible, but I didn't know it yet. I had a plot, characters, and action, but the writing wasn't publication-ready by any stretch of a true novelist's imagination.

By January, I thought it was time for an agent. On January 4, 2015, I sent my first query letter. (For my non-writer friends, a query letter is a certain type of letter sent to agents to see if they'd be interested in representing your novel.)  

Before I hit send on that query letter, I prayed for a word from God about the process and read until I found Isaiah 42:16. 

"And I will lead the blind by a way they do not know,
In paths they do not know I will guide them.
I will make darkness into light before them
And rugged places into plains.
These are the things I will do,
And I will not leave them undone."

I laughed when I read it. I felt a little blind, and as if I was going a way I didn't know and didn't understand. It wasn't the most encouraging verse I'd ever claimed, but I stuck with it. The part about darkness and rugged places didn't appeal to me, but I was willing to go as long as God stuck to the "I will not leave them undone" part. 

My heart pounded. I felt exposed and vulnerable. It seemed the most risky thing I'd ever done. What if she didn't like it? What if she said I'd wasted all my time and effort? My finger hovered over the send button. I touched it, backed off, touched it again, repeatedly. Finally, with one more prayer for favor, I pressed the key and sent the query. 

The agent was a gift from God. In less than thirty minutes, she replied requesting additional pages and, eventually, asked to read the entire manuscript. 

She didn't offer to represent me because she had limited her practice to romance, and my novel wasn't in her genre. What she gave me instead was encouragement. She loved my style. I was a good writer, she said. If I wrote a romance, she wanted to see it first. She was sure there was an agent for me. She gave me hope and the will to keep trying.

Learning to write fiction has been a long, hard process. I tend to repeat words for emphasis, but they're distracting in fiction and have to go. My commas aren't always in the right places. They have to be corrected. Sometimes I swap verb tenses in the middle of the page or paragraph, but they have to be consistent. 

It's easy to tell a story, not show it, but not as great a read. "Showing" by dropping the reader in the action and allowing them to experience the emotion of the scene is hard, but it has to be done. It's why the Caregiver Chronicles were my most-read blog series ever. It's also why views drop off when I write a Greek word study. Who wants dry and boring when you can have action and interesting? No one.

Three years after I completed the first draft of my first novel, I signed with a literary agency. In the intervening years, I took online classes, read a mountain of books on writing, joined the American Christian Fiction Writers organization, attended a writing conference, hired a teaching editor. I spent countless hours searching through my manuscript to find and correct errors. 

I worked on the novel until I was sick of it. The process felt hopeless to me. It was too hard and I couldn't do it. I wondered if I should leave the writing to the English majors. 

My editor suggested I set the project aside for a while. "Come back to it when it's fresh again," she told me. She was right. After a few months, I had a new attitude and a better perspective. I set to work again. It was still hard, but I made my way through.

Monday, my agent sent me the proposal template I'm to use. My stomach churned as I read it. Too hard. Too elegant. Too polished. "I can't do this. I'm not this good. I'm not ready," I whined silently. My sense of dread at the effort threatened to overwhelm me. 

I closed the file without printing it. 

This morning, I opened Isaiah and began to read chapter 42. I turned the page and found the passage I claimed before my first query. I laughed again, but this time with delight.

God has led me, the blind, in a way I didn't know. He has guided me through paths I'd never traveled before, made darkness into light, and turned rugged places into plains. He hasn't left anything undone, and He won't. 

The template that frightened me is merely another rugged place that God will make into a plain. It's simply another learning curve to conquer, another task to complete. It can be done, and it must if I'm to follow this path. 

Sometimes God moves in an instant. Sometimes, He takes centuries to accomplish His promise. None of the intervening time is wasted. The time between promise and fruition of my writing career has served to prepare me for what God has planned.

The question is never whether God will do His part, but whether I will do mine. When God promised a Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, it was as good as done. The One Micah wrote about has come. The response to our Savior is up to us. Will we accept the payment He's made for our sin and follow Him or not? 

This Christmas, let's use the advent season to examine our hearts and lives. Is our response to the Babe in the Manger one of worship and surrender or do we treat Him as merely one more sweet piece in a nativity scene? Is He our divine Lord or a lovely decoration? Does our response to Him drive us to serve and love or decorate and shop?

The advent season, a time of waiting and preparation for the Christ Child, is designed to help us prepare our hearts to receive Jesus. Will we respond as disciples or as bystanders? 

God kept His promise, and it was worth the wait. The rest is up to us. How will we welcome Jesus this year? 

"Unto you is born a Savior, who is Christ the Lord..." Luke 2:11 
If this post has touched your heart, please like and share to help our digital outreach grow. Your help makes a huge difference. Thanks!

In case you missed yesterday's post, here's the link:#19 When Grinch and Scrooge Threaten Christmas

Here are links to other posts in this series:#18: Harvesting the Sweet from the Hard, #17: Church and the Mattress Set#16: Taking Our Confusion to the One Who UnderstandsWhen Rest Isn't Optional and Christmas Has to Wait

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