Hi, Dan Walsh here, writing from Daytona Beach.
As I look back on my “journey to publication” and the journey I’ve been on since, I’ve been reflecting lately on the topic of expectations. Specifically, their tendency to be out of sync with real life. It doesn’t just happen occasionally. I almost never get them right. And when life doesn’t line up, add up, or live up to my expectations, my heart falls into discouragement.
Here’s a passage that has been helping me catch a better perspective. Psalm 127:1 says, “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.”
Obviously, the words “house” and “city” are metaphors. We know about metaphors. And I think most of us can easily see how such a verse speaks to those of us who write. We are the ones actually doing the writing. But we also know we have serious limitations, in terms of how things go with our writing careers.
This reminds me of a joke I heard a few years ago.
A man owned some box seats and invited his priest to watch a major league baseball game with him. In the span of one inning, 2 or 3 batters made the sign of the cross before they took the plate. The man turns to the priest and says, “Say Father, what they’re doing there…does that really help?”
The priest says, “It does if they can hit.”
In writing, as in sports, both of these elements are in play. God’s part, our part. Obviously, major league ballplayers can hit. That’s how they made it to the major leagues. But many of them are aware of their limitations, of a sense that God had something to do with them getting this far, standing before thousands of fans, about to hit the ball once more.
Psalm 127 reminds us, God’s role in our success is not incidental…it’s essential. And it’s essential for us to remember His role is essential. It puts things in proper perspective. He is God, we are not. He has control, we do not.
When we forget this, which we can easily do, we wind up setting our hopes (or expectations) on things we have no control of. Then when they don’t happen, or happen in the timeframe we’ve allowed, our hearts plummet into discouragement. As it says in Prov 13:12, “Hope deferred (delayed, postponed) makes the heart sick…”
We can set our hopes and expectations on something very easily. Some of us live on a perpetual roller-coaster of setting high hopes, only to see them deferred. We recover, forget what just happened, and set our hopes on something else, or the same thing, allowing for more time. And so we live in a regular state of “heartsickness” or discouragement.
Here’s another Psalm that has helped me get off this emotional rollercoaster. Psalm 62: 5-6, “Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope (or expectation) comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.”
David tells us something he has learned. He has taken his eyes off his situation, realizing he has no control, and is looking fully toward the Lord. He says, “my hope (what I’m hoping in or for) comes from the Lord.” As writers, we need to hear this. We need to stop setting our own hopes or expectations in matters over which we have no control. And start letting the Lord set our hopes and expectations for us.
Why? His timing is perfect.
Don’t let the craving to be published (to be published again, to become a bestseller, or to win awards) rob you of the joy of writing itself. Writing is one of the things that distinguishes us as creatures “made in the image and likeness of God.”
I’ve been to some of the finest museums in the world―Washington, Rome, Vienna―you know one thing I’ve never seen? Ancient scrolls or stone tablets written by monkeys. Whales and dolphins are said to possess high intelligence. That may be so, but none of them have ever written a book (even a short story).
Writing is the chosen medium of God himself. God reveals wonderful things about himself in creation. We can learn much about him from observing the stars, and galaxies, the mountains and the seas. But He’s chosen the medium of putting words on a page to reveal to us His thoughts and the purposes of His heart.
God is the greatest storyteller of all, and he’s entrusted this ability to us.
We shouldn’t attach our highest joys in writing to public acclaim or monetary rewards. Let’s take joy in the simple pleasure of doing something God has gifted us to do, and make it our aim to do it for His glory. That’s where the real joy is in writing. And that’s a joy beyond the reach of earthly crowns, earthly treasures, or even earthly disappointments.