Digging In

I’m of the persuasion that more is better. I mean, isn’t most of America? Supersize it! Go big or go home. Strive, push, go, run, driven, goal-oriented, persistent…everything we want to be, right?

I’ve internalized this message and applied it to my vocation as a writer. It feels like I’m cheating to reach back into my repertoire to say the same thing again. All past pieces, published or not, are just bits of gravel strewn along the path behind me. Admittedly, they have some merit to have brought me here, but to be a real artist, a real writer, I must only make new, not build upon ruins. Or so I have believed. I have dozens of folders of scraps. Half-digested ideas that made their way onto the page, but were soon forgotten and deemed irrelevant to current pursuits.

But recently, I’ve come to a stand still. I don’t know if you can tell (I don’t know if I want you to notice) every noun seems forced, verbs evade me, sentences seem slippery and limp. I can’t seem to make anything new. It feels like I’m slogging through molasses. I…can’t…seem…to…press…on…

A very perceptive friend emailed me last week. He took the time to write me a long letter, encouraging from one perspective and a bit convicting from another. Realizing that I am thrashing and flustered by my lack of creativity, he reminded me of my own words: when I first found your website years ago, I picked up on your words “Sometimes it takes pain for us to hear the already God-given permission to rest”, so make sure you practice what you preach.

Oh my, practice what I preach. Indeed. Guess I might have caught that if I ever “wasted” the time rereading my own blog. At the time I wrote it, I was so certain that God was speaking to and through me. I could barely spill the words fast enough. I must have assumed that I mastered whatever God was hoping to teach me, because just as quickly I pressed on.

While rereading that post, I stumbled upon a whole season in which God kept insisting rest, rest, rest. 

My friend continued to talk about the futility of striving. He gave specific accounts of his own life. Striving took its toll, but when he stopped, too tired and worn to press on, God did beautiful, complete things in his life.

I thought about the physical parallels of this. An image of myself treading water formed in my mind. Usually, swimming  laps seems superior to treading water. But have you ever tried to tread water for any length of time? It takes more strength to pedal your legs and flap your arms just so, in one spot, than it does to perform a perfect crawl stroke for the same duration. Not to mention, it takes incredible mental stamina to tread water.

I felt God lean into my heart with the words: Go deeper, not wider.  I’m still unearthing all the treasure associated with that little phrase, but this is a start: Stay here. Tread deep. Reread. Relearn. Don’t go forward. I love the way Exodus 4:37 says this, “But if the cloud did not rise, they remained where they were until it lifted.” My cloud isn’t moving.

At this time, I don’t think still necessarily means stationary. It simply means not going forward. I need to do what I have here to do. Go deeper with my platform, the publications for which I am already writing, in my blog and talking here with you, in the church and the small groups I have now, in my marriage, with my friends. I must wrestle with this discontent, this inkling that where I am isn’t good enough and I must do more, reach farther.

I’ll leave you with this for today. I wrote an article prompted by the word “silence”. My heart kept seeking the word “silence” in Ps. 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God.” It’s not there, but what I discovered about the command to be still surprised me. 

So I’m settling in. I’m going deep. I’m staying right here. Until He tells me Move. 

3 thoughts on “Digging In

  1. Hi Abby ! I am very happy to read this – not because you have been struggling but because you can see the way forward and find where the light shines. Strangely, I’ve had the same bogged down feeling for 2 days. Your piece is helping me emerge from it.

    You have written some absolute gems over the years and I’m sure all your followers will want to be reminded of them, plus you will have new followers who will have missed some of these. Everywhere we look in the bible it tells us to focus on a) the Present and b) Eternity. We don’t know much about the latter yet, so we have to focus on the former, and especially on the things we CAN take with us to the latter.

    Also, we should not be afraid of borrowing and sharing wisdom of others (I do it all the time !). You have more skill as a writer than I do in connecting these things together. Famous writers borrow wisdom too. Relevant to the moment, our friend CS Lewis said : “Pain is God’s megaphone” but I found it in one of Rick Warren’s books, where he also quoted : “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are (Anais Nin)”. I certainly found that we see things differently on good and bad days and every person has a different view : “perspective – use it or lose it”.

    To tell you the truth, we DO also come under attack. There is no question of that. Our enemy will play dirty tricks on us and only God has the power to help us through it. I have often bounced from one state of mind to another. First stress, urgency, running out of time, more stress. Then I pray and God fixes it (yes, really). After that I can sometimes relax too much and get complacent. It can become a vicious circle. However after years of working on it, I sometimes can go months in a balanced state and feel God at work every day. If that slips for a few days it hurts more than it did before. That shows we are getting somewhere. The more good we do, the more likely we are to be attacked. To me this means you are doing great things these days.

    These attacks are nothing new and I think CS Lewis captures it perfectly in Screwtape letters (see below). The “tortured fear and stupid confidence” certainly DO make us very vulnerable indeed. He mentions the countermeasures too and these come (in his words) “from our eternal union with God, obeying the present voice of conscience, bearing the present cross, receiving the present grace, giving thanks for the present pleasure.”

    So on that note, I shall say thanks for all that we have been given and thanks especially to you Abby for sharing your thoughts and feelings as well as your wisdom ! A friend Indeed.



    Screwtape strategizes with Wormwood, using Time as a weapon:

    “I had noticed, of course, that the humans were having a lull in their European war—what they naïvely call ‘The War’!—and am not surprised that there is a corresponding lull in the patient’s anxieties. Do we want to encourage this, or to keep him worried? Tortured fear and stupid confidence are both desirable states of mind. Our choice between them raises important questions.
    The humans live in time but our Enemy destines them to eternity. He therefore, I believe, wants them to attend chiefly to two things, to eternity itself, and to that point of time which they call the Present. For the Present is the point at which time touches eternity. Of the present moment, and of it only, humans have an experience analogous to the experience which our Enemy has of reality as a whole; in it alone freedom and actuality are offered them. He would therefore have them continually concerned either with eternity (which means being concerned with Him) or with the Present—either meditating on their eternal union with, or separation from, Himself, or else obeying the present voice of conscience, bearing the present cross, receiving the present grace, giving thanks for the present pleasure.”

    From The Screwtape Letters
    Compiled in A Year with C.S. Lewis
    The Screwtape Letters. Copyright © 1942, C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. Copyright restored © 1996 C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd

  2. Like you, David, I take some comfort and courage knowing that another is feeling a bit of the “stuck” that I do 🙂
    Not that I’m happy for your struggle, but it’s good to be in the trenches with someone, you know?
    I am again, incredibly grateful for your personal wisdom as well as all that you share! I have taken your idea too and started a running file of wisdom – notes and quotes and articles from other’s who are mining their experiences for evidence of God and the Word for His truth.
    I am fascinated by how confident you are, over and over and how you speak so assuredly that God does indeed “fix” things. I see it all the time and then (oops) like a short-sighted child forget. I actually wrote an article called “Flakey Feelings Meet the Truth” which describes how I feel like I flip and flop in the wind – one minute assured and restful the next anxious and stressed out. Reminds me of the verse James 1:6 “But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.”

    I treasure you, Friend! I’m off to walk the dog and listen to a Rick Warren sermon, too.
    Have a delicious day!!

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