Yesterday Jules and I headed south for the Oregon Christian Writer’s OCW Winter 2015 One-Day Conference. I really had no expectations for the conference. I was mainly looking forward to spending the day with my sister and perhaps find some inspiration to get back to writing my book. I didn’t expect to hear the gospel message presented in the context of being a writer.
Dr. Bill Giovannetti was the keynote speaker. The title “You Can Walk on Water” intrigued me. I know this familiar story. The one of Peter leaving the boat, walking to Jesus, losing his focus and Jesus saving him. I’ve always found it comforting to know that when I look away from Jesus he’ll save me from drowning. The power in that story is not that Jesus saved Peter when he doubted. The power is that Peter had the faith to get out of the boat, even with the other disciples sitting in the boat, hesitant to get out of the boat with him.
When an author feels called to write they have a choice to make. They can listen to the inner critic telling them to stay safe in the boat or they can listen to the voice of the Savior calling them to come to Him. It takes faith to make the choice to follow a call.
Bill shared with us four truths that remind us that we can write the words we’ve been asked to write.
- The Writer’s Task: Your Job is faith.
- The Writer’s Comfort: God’s job is outcome.
- The Writer’s Confidence: Grace seeks faith like a heat-seeking missile.
- The Writer’s Secret: Keep your eyes on Jesus!
He was speaking to the audience of writers, but I was hearing he voice of my Abba speaking once more to my heart.
Taunya, your job is to have faith. To trust me with the outcome. You write/speak what I ask you to write/speak. It is my job to use those words. Your faith and my grace will collide. You do not lack confidence because of this. Keep your eyes on Jesus, he is the way, the truth, the life. I have written you into my story, I have chosen your place in my story and I will use you as I wish. You only need to have faith that I have the best intentions for you and trust me. No MORE FEAR.
It always comes back to my choice. My choice to live my life in faith, confident that grace covers me and Abba will always have good for my life. I can choose to get out of the boat and head toward Jesus or I can stay in the boat, listening to those who tell me to stay in the safety of the boat.
Bill’s words snapped me back into reality. “If God has called you to write, the only way you will sink is to quit writing.” He has no idea how absolutely terrified I am of drowning. Literally. The thought of drowning can cause me to panic. It strengthened my resolve — I don’t want to drown mentally or spiritually anymore than I want to drown naturally.
After the break Bill continued talking about faith. He shared a heart-wrenching story of a girl who was the target of bullies’ attacks in a high school lunchroom. His point was that through our experiences with people our identities shape. We answer the question of “Who Am I” by what others say we are. Jesus comes to tell us who we really are. Our identity is Christ … not the bullies, the parents, the peers, the bosses, the pastors, the culture … only Christ.
Photo: Oregon Christian Writers
His talk confirmed what I knew to be true and fine-tuned it into something I can grasp and understand. It’s what I desperately want to do with my writing, sharing my story and living on the edge. As Bill so eloquently put it, “Walk the reader home to who they are and free them from the labels of who they are not.”
It comes back to Grace. The moment I have faith, it seeks me, finds me, and renews my identity into who I truly am. Grace shows me who I am and removes the labels of who I am not.
The afternoon sessions were workshops. We decided to stick with Bill. I’m happy I did. It was worth the $25 fee for the one sentence that I wrote down on my paper. The very truth that I’ve been wrestling for two weeks. The truth that my friend Angie said perhaps I should start believing last weekend.
“The happy ending is not that the bad things go away, but that the bad things no longer own you.”
I have let the bad things own me. My mind accused me that I’m not redeemed. Well-meaning people who tell me that writing and blogging is keeping me chained to the past. That if I’m truly redeemed I will quit talking about the past and start living for now.
Like Peter I walked out of the boat onto the water. I had faith that I was speaking what Abba wanted me to speak. I began to write my story, a story of filthy sin and beautiful redemption, of a little girl lost and a woman found, of the father who neglected me and the father who rescued me … MY story.
BUT … I wasn’t careful about who I told about the writing. I experienced exactly what Bill said, “All those chicken to get out of the water will sit, spitting out their opinions.” So many opinions. Don’t write this. You should write this. What are you going to do about that story? You are not going to write about them are you? You wouldn’t dare share those secrets…would you? On and on and on. I let them slime me with their gunk and I QUIT WRITING. I decided it wasn’t worth risking the relationships I have now and the ones I had then. I decided that they were right. Perhaps it was time to just let the past go silently into the night and quit writing.
And I began to sink…Really, what I did was blank out as Bill called it. I took my eyes off Jesus and turned away from what my story is REALLY about — redemption.
He is right. The bad things in my life never really go away. I can’t change that part of my story no matter how hard I try … that experience never does not happen. BUT there is REDEMPTION in the story. Faith. Grace. Mercy. A savior who loves deeper than the oceans and higher than the heavens. And a father who has adopted me into his family and loved me whole. My story is worth telling, must be told, because someone else needs to read it.
Ultimately, it isn’t about a book or a blog or whether I’m a good writer. It’s about Jesus and he’s the best reason to step out of the boat.
If you’re an aspiring or professional writer in Oregon, follower of Jesus, then I encourage you to join this writer’s organization.