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.