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God doesn’t need another book.

That was the liberating message proclaimed by William P. Young, author of The Shack, at last weekend’s Faith and Culture writing conference.

He perfectly set the tone for the weekend.

Trusting that God can carry His own weight is incredibly freeing. I’ve known in theory for a long time that of course God can carry His weight, in addition to mine and everyone else’s. But it’s still sinking in on an everyday life sort of level.

Young’s words echoed those of a friend who told me earlier in the week that God doesn’t need me to bring about justice. He will bring justice, though He invites me to participate in the process.

If God doesn’t need me to write a book, or bring justice, or even give a meal to someone in need, then why do I bother with such things? And why does He tell those who neglect to give food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, and clothes to the naked to depart from Him into everlasting punishment (Mt 25:41-46)?

Why does He say that in everything you do, work at it with all your heart, as for the Lord and not for men (Col 3:23)? Why pursue excellence if everything will be perfectly accomplished without my participation?

I’m still working through these questions, but what became clearer at the writing conference was that not only am I unable to carry the weight of the world, but that defining myself by what I do will leave me empty, insecure, and always hungry for more.

The Shack

In Young’s words, no matter how much I want to make ideas into commodities I can sell or exchange for identity, worth, purpose, and security, the trade will fall through. Writing a book will not add to any of these aspects of life.

Much of what I do is for these very purposes. If it’s not writing that I try to exchange for such goods, then it’s striving for perfection, catalyzing change, making a difference in others’ lives – sometimes even loving my husband takes on this purpose.

I need my orientation to shift from performance to participation.

Performance means the outcome relies on me, accomplishment is the goal, and I am the focus. In contrast, participation means hardly any of the outcome relies on me, transformation is the goal, and the larger-than-any-single-life outcome is the focus.

The invitation to participate frees me to be myself. Without the pressure to earn or prove anything, new doors to creativity and relationship open wide. Writing becomes less about words on the page and more about processing, healing, relating to God and others.

The second day of the writing conference, Tony Kriz confessed that he spent a decade trying to get God to notice him. He worked in remote locations where others declined to go and felt compelled to accomplish something meaningful by the age of 30 for life to be worthwhile.

What he ended up with was burnout and a broken heart until unlikely neighbors offered wisdom and healing.

Neighbors and Wise Men

Even newer to the literary scene, Tyler Braun said writers get off track when we forget the “why” of writing in light of the “how” that we hope will lead to success.

“We have big dreams of being well known for our writing and influencing the masses to the point that we don’t care about the few people right in front of us,” he said. “What God has placed right in front of us is enough.”

Young wrote The Shack for the few in front of him – his wife and six children, along with close friends whom he thought might benefit from the story. The manuscript unexpectedly passed from one set of hands to another and, without any marketing push, has now sold millions of copies and been translated into dozens of languages, bringing healing and opening windows to God.

What God placed in front of Young was enough for him – 15 people. And if his book had landed in only those 15 hands, it still would have been worthwhile.

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