I stared at my email inbox for several moments. Six unread messages. Three announcing sales that I can’t afford to miss! Delete. Delete. Delete.
An email from someone who wants to send me ONE MILLION DOLLARS. Delete.
Uh oh, one from an editor with a major publishing house. I had submitted a book proposal to her a few weeks prior. Was I ready to experience the familiar crush of disappointment? I had a pile of rejection emails from agents, editors, and publishers. Some were polite, while others were insults disguised as compliments.
Keep working on your craft.
Not the right project for us.
Your characters all sound the same.
You have some storytelling ability but lack skill.
My critique group thinks my writing is great. Are they lying to me? Trying to hide the truth that I’m really not a good writer?
I open the spreadsheet of proposals and articles I’ve submitted, with a column for Accepted/Rejected. As the Rejected column grows, so does my self-doubt. I’m no good. I should quit. No one will ever publish my stuff. I’ll never be good enough. My writing is stupid/ boring/ insipid. Why do I keep punishing myself?
My mind goes to Philippians 3:14 (NIV): “I press on to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
Does that mean I have to keep pounding my head against the computer? (If you see me at church, check my forehead for the imprint of the keyboard.)
What Paul is saying in this verse isn’t that we are to press on toward some outside ambition or goal. He tells us to press on to the high calling in Christ Jesus. That certainly puts another slant on it. As I’m obedient to the call of God on my life, I keep pressing on toward the goal of becoming like Him.
Remember the story in Matthew of the master who went away on a long trip. He gave talents to three of his servants. To one he gave ten, to another five, and to the last, one talent. The one who was given ten talents invested them and doubled his investment when the master returned. The same happened with the servant who was given five. Guess what the master said to both of them? Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over little, you will be given much.
Woe to that poor servant who stuck his talent away, fearful of the wrath of the master should he lose it. The master’s harsh rebuke: “Thou wicked and slothful servant!” In fact, he said he would take his talent and give it to the others. Ouch.
How do you press on after defeat? The figure skater who falls down during her routine yet gets up and goes on. The movie star who gets panned by critics, but keeps on acting. The worker who is turned down for a promotion, waiting for her hard work to be recognized.
Several years ago, I was encouraged by my mentor to run for city council. I did all the right things, fundraising, campaigning and speaking at forums. When the results came in on election night, I watched as my numbers added up. In the end, I didn’t even finish close to first. I was second to last out of five candidates.
My mentor told me to try again. The next time ended with the same results. I reluctantly withdrew from politics, defeat at my heels like a persistent little dog. Years later, I still don’t know why God led me into politics. Perhaps it was to get me out of my introvert shell. Speaking in front of people took me WAY out of my comfort zone.
As I think about the defeats and rejections I’ve faced, I realize that God has given me the best antidote, His son Jesus.
I turn back to my computer. The blinking cursor sits on the email from the editor. I take a deep breath and double click. I read it through quickly, hoping to soften the blow.
“Dear Jane, Welcome to Hallway Publishing. Attached is a contract for your book, From Grief to Grace…”
Defeat. Victory. The outcome is in God’s hands and in His timing. All I have to do is be obedient with the talent He’s given me.