Last night I started reading a book, and it wasn’t what I thought it would be…at all. What I thought would be a novel, turned out to be a series of essays on the process of writing. What struck me, other than pointing out that I need to return to my own neglected writing, is that these essays were exciting and invigorating and that they made me look at the process of writing in a whole new way… and that the author’s essays, as stimulating as they were pointed out that writing is a lot like slogging on.
She pointed out that we need to write when we are uninspired. She pointed out that we need to write when we don’t want to. She pointed out that we need to write when we are distracted and too busy and too tired and too overwhelmed with life. Those who write, write. Period.
The other thing that struck me was what she said about the process of actually writing. She described it as spending time with a butterfly, growing, fluttering and flying through her imagination, and then only when she felt it was truly formed did she sit down to write. And for her that process of writing meant pinning the butterfly to the paper and maybe even driving over it with an SUV. The process of writing what is in our hearts and minds, means exposing it to a degree that can render it unrecognizable. I can’t explain why that resonated with me, but I understood. I start to write one thing and I end up writing something else. It was good to know that others experience it too.
And then of course she spoke of the relentless slogging on. Write it, crumple it. Write it, delete it. Write it and have it come back redacted by the editor’s red pen. Write it, cut it. Write it, rewrite it. What she describes sounded like an unproductive, uninspiring road to nowhere, and it is, until something clicks.
And that reminded me of what I am currently experiencing with my study of God’s word. It could be that I am reading through Kings and all the accomplishments of the kings are chronicled in a terse dry, “just the facts mam” method. There is no passion, no drama and no inspiration. Reading through it seems like standing at the valley of the dry bones and wondering if there is anything in it that lives, or could live. And it is, until some nugget of wisdom jumps into my heart.
The last nugget of wisdom came at the conclusion of the life and times of a king, who had gone about doing what God wanted, removing enemies, destroying false religions. Fact piled up after fact. Accomplishment piled up on accomplishment, but there was nothing that showed me how he was a man of faith and how he managed to follow God through trial after trial. It truly was just the facts…. until in summation of this king’s life the words literally jumped off the page… He did not serve God with his whole heart.
He accomplished all that God asked of him, yet he did not serve God with his whole heart. How can that be?
For the last couple of days I have been pondering that. Isn’t loving and serving God with our whole hearts something we all have trouble with? We step out in faith, and the difficulties in life cause us to be discouraged. We try to serve God but we wonder if we are doing the right thing. We try to seek God’s way but we don’t seem to hear his voice. And that’s when we are trying to love God with our whole heart. But then there are the days we are distracted. And the days we are tired. And the days when we are overwhelmed with life. And in those days we walk in our own strength and try to control the outcome of our lives ourselves. All of us have those times when we don’t love God with our whole hearts. All of us have those times when we don’t serve God with our whole hearts.
And it seems to me, that those dry bones moments of our lives when we don’t feel connected to God, when our faith fails us, and when we don’t know if God is even there are those moments when we need to just keep slogging on. Nowhere in Scripture have we been promised that it would be easy. After all if it was easy it would not require faith or trust or commitment. Easy doesn’t build our character. Easy doesn’t build our faith. Easy doesn’t help us grow as God’s people. Easy makes us lazy and causes us to quit looking for what God is calling us to do.
Do I love God with my whole heart? I know that I want to. But I also know that I sometimes allow my heart to seek other things. And in those days I seek my own way. But in those days I am grateful that there are those things that stir my heart and renew my faith and my trust. I am grateful that in the slogging on, I find a moment of hope and inspiration and a reminder that God is my God and there is none other. Good news, even in the valley of dry bones.
Source of life and hope
Love incarnate, fill my heart
Open my being and my will to be your servant
Grant me grace
Guide me with your Spirit
Instil in me a desire to serve only you
Nurture my love for you
Guide my footsteps onto your pathway
Open my heart to love you more fully
Now and forevermore. Amen