I’m about to get brutally honest here, so get ready… But I think someone else may need to hear this too.
I love writing. I also love teaching. I said to a good friend–also a school administrator–once that it’s really, really hard when you have two callings on your life. I love crazy teaching days, laughing and crying with my students and pouring all I have into them. But I also love my solitary days with my coffee and my laptop, joining my God in the work of creation as He writes stories through me. Some days, it’s tough to say which I enjoy more. But God has made it abundantly clear over and over again that, while I love teaching, my deeper calling is to be a writer.
But I have struggled with that. It has, at times, seemed selfish to me to sit at home with my laptop and my coffee, creating stories while my teacher friends do “real” work in their classrooms. See, sometimes I reduce writing to that. To something that is “lesser than” the job where you dress up and devise lessons and battle against the world to educate children’s minds and–in my school–to sow the seeds of Christ in them for eternity. Oh my word… teaching is truly a noble profession that is often thankless and misunderstood by the world. It’s hard. Harder than you can imagine if you haven’t ever poured your soul out in doing it.
And so, at times, I look at my writer life and I think… this is wrong. I’m taking the easy way out. How is making up stories working for God? Because I can’t see the faces of readers. I can’t see what God is doing. Maybe I’m supposed to be in the classroom, because there’s an immediacy there. There’s a need there. I love writing so much… maybe it’s selfishness on my part to actually sit here and do it. Am I only doing this for myself, for my enjoyment? Oh my word, the guilt Satan can heap on us because we love and enjoy our jobs. Some days, it’s crushing, this way he makes us believe that somehow w can’t have fun with our work.
And then, when I’m wrestling the hardest, God sends me this verse, and I’m pretty sure someone else needs to hear it too.
The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground, and should sleep by night and rise by day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he himself does not know how.
-Mark 4:26 (NKJV), italics mine
He himself does not know how. When I’m teaching, there’s an immediacy. There are little faces (okay, not so little because they’re middle schoolers) in front of me who need me to be all in right now. There is a relationship that starts on a still-summer August morning and extends, truth be told, into forever. Because honestly, those kids really do become yours and a part of your heart and prayers forever. It’s a beautiful thing. You plant seeds right in the field you are standing in, and it’s incredible when you get to watch them grow. Sometimes it’s decades later and sometimes you never get to see it, but you know the field. You know the soil. You watch over and tend your precious little plot of land right in front of you.
But in writing, it’s different. It’s a little like standing in the middle of a hurricane and throwing seeds into the air. You have no idea where they are going to go. And the likelihood that you will ever see even one leaf of the harvest is slim to none. Rather than praying by name for faces in front of you, you pray for far-flung readers you will probably never meet. Rather than pouring your soul into children sitting before you, you pour it onto a keyboard. So yes, at times (at least to me) it feels like self-centered work.
Ah, but wait. It is work. Like teaching, some days of writing are utter sunshine and joy and perfection. And, also like teaching, other days are like the aforementioned hurricane, when you have to plant your feet and hold on. Or worse, like a drought where the words aren’t coming and the story is stale and so you close your laptop, quit your job, and go to Staples to look at all of the pretty pens. (Wait, am I the only one who does that?) But then you come back the next day and put your fingers on the keys again.
Why? Because, at least for me and most of you, it’s God’s work. Every word is a seed that will grow, we just don’t now how. And just like the farmer plants then goes about his work without fretting about the how, so are we as writers. We write the books God calls us to write, and we let God handle the where and how the seeds sprout.
Sometimes we get that reader letter, the one that comes exactly when we need it, the one where a precious soul pours out their heart back to us and says, “This is what God has done in my life. Thank you.” It’s a flower delivery, a blossom that budded in a distant field then made its way back to our door.
It. Is. God’s. Work.
God, forgive me for comparing my calling to other people’s callings… or even to my own. If God has called you to something, that is your job. Don’t feel guilty for loving it. The sincerest blessing is being in the middle of your calling. There is no job more or less godly or noble than any other, from answering phones to sweeping sidewalks to writing books to teaching children. I have to stop thinking teaching is somehow better than writing. They are merely different. I can count the little souls in my classroom because I can see them. I can see the ones who are changing and growing. I can see the ones God is touching. Not always so with writing, but God can see. And I have to trust Him for the harvest.
I will never forget, at my first Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference in 2009, Cec Murphy was the keynote speaker and he said,
“Sometimes you write for an audience of millions, and sometimes you write for an audience of one.”
I have never forgotten that. Ever. Whether it is one or millions, the introverted day-to-day of writing a novel or the extroverted day-to-day of teaching 100 children, the work is exactly right if it is God’s calling.