The paycheck in my hand trembled as I giggled. The school actually paid me for doing what I loved … teaching!
Deep down, the personal enjoyment of encouraging other people to use their abilities for God has always produced fulfillment. Mentoring other young women in their walk with God has been a deep part of my heart for many years. Together, these separate entities made up a great portion of my being. But an elusive part of me was missing no matter how strong the desire to forget. Fiction writing—a hidden, broken gem long since stuffed in a box, sealed forever, and put on a shelf in my heart.
Over the years, I have encouraged many people to write what God put inside of them. The advice wouldn’t work for me. It was easier to hide painful personal rejections over writing than to be exposed to deep criticism, as had happened many years earlier. A private mountain blocked most of the writing road, and I had no desire to move it.
A friend and I began to have conversations about her writing. Encouraging her seemed the natural thing to do. When she tried to urge me to begin putting deeper thoughts into words again, I did the easiest thing and changed the subject. One day, she invited me to an Inspire writer’s critique group. That door was slammed, locked, bolted, and hammered closed.
She kept asking.
Finally, I relented. The chairs filled with welcoming people. A friend from a different area of my life walked in. Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad. The group started discussing someone’s work. The group’s leader asked for my opinion about one of the submissions. After tentatively giving it, several people oohed and made affirming comments.
I was hooked.
Over the next months, I started writing again, and actually gained the nerve to submit a devotional. No one tore me apart. Not one person said my writing was horrendous. The internal shelf shook and the top of my once-sealed box shifted.
I attended that group for several years and then switched to a different one. This new troupe had a leader with a different way of guiding. With challenges to push everyone in a gentle way to be better, she led us in exercises to broaden our craft. She urged us to break out of our comfort zones.
It was not always comfortable. Breaking free usually isn’t.
During one of these sessions, we had a timed writing period. Nonfiction was my choice of writing over the years, since attending that first group. But on this day, when she set a picture before us and told us to write, the lid of the shelved box blew off. I wrote my first flash fiction and my heart exploded, then settled into one piece again.
This leader saw something in me I wouldn’t allow myself to recall. I went home and cried and argued with God. After all, the door to fiction had been securely closed. For too long, the thought of fiction being frivolous and shallow had taken up a large amount of space in my mind. But God, and this leader, persisted. The hidden gem sealed back together with only a crack remaining as a reminder to use the pain of the past to write from deep within.
The itch of mentoring and teaching is still scratched through writing devotionals. But once again, my heart is and will always be enthralled in and excited by fiction.
Without relenting and going with my friend,
If I had not listened to the encouragement of others at that first meeting,
If that critique group leader hadn’t exposed me to new challenges,
I would have allowed the enemy to keep a treasure sealed that God intended to use.
My first novel is now complete and is currently in rewrites. Shards of pain are woven through the mix of words that took shape and formed into sentences, paragraphs, and chapters creating an entire manuscript.
Who would have thought a teacher, mentor, encourager could write a novel?
God. And He used a critique group leader to push me to deeper possibilities.
As writers, writing what God designed within our hearts is the only option. Anything else is less than the potential He put within us. It may be painful, but that is what creates depth in our stories. If we’re not willing to be stretched and taught, then apply the lessons, what He intended for His kingdom will not develop.
He speaks into the quiet hidden places, and sometimes He leads through the unexpected. But He always shines through the cracks if we let Him.
Listen well, my kindred writers. Let’s not keep God’s best gems sealed in a box.
Write on, dear ones, write on.