I received really great news in the mail last week. Included among the usual stack of bills, credit card applications, and new offers from AAA was an envelope from Ambassador International Publishing. It contained a signed publishing contract, which means that sometime in the next 12 months, my first book will officially roll off the presses. After 30+ years of dreaming and scheming, the first-fruits of my writing career are peeking through the soil.
As is usual for me, I embraced the news that my book was definitely being published with a strong dose of reflection. I opened the envelope, read the contract twice, and then sat down and thought back on the last two decades. That is how long I have known that God called me to put pen to paper.* For twenty years, I have worn that calling as a certainty; spoken of it with anticipation; dreamed of it and longed for it and felt guilty that I had not made more progress towards my goal. For twenty years I have done everything to advance my cause as a writer . . . well, except to actually write.
Granted, there was a two-year period when I took a very helpful writing class – one that paired me with my mentor, Sheila Cragg. During that time I wrote quite a bit and even placed some articles with small Christian magazines. But near the end of that period, I recognized God’s call to enter ministry, and soon thereafter I started serving at Pinedale Christian Church. When that ministry started, all writing stopped. I felt tired, and spent, and overwhelmed, and I soon forgot my “other” calling. Pen and paper fell silent.
I wonder, sometimes, how God views those moments. How did He feel when He heard me tell my wife or my friends how I knew that one day writing would be a part of my ministry despite the fact that I never worked on a manuscript? How did He feel when He heard me complain that I still felt like something was missing from my life – something that I knew I needed to do – when He had made that thing clear to me so long ago? Does God feel frustrated? Does He sigh? Does He laugh? I obviously have no idea, but I do know this – He does not give up on us. He is patient and persistent, and when He wants something from you, (or for you), He keeps the pressure coming.
That’s why, two years ago, I woke up one day and realized that I could not run from God’s call any longer. I was 38 years old, and time was only moving forward. That mountain called “40” loomed in front of me, and its shadow created an ominous feeling inside of me. I must stop standing still. I must seize the opportunity God has given me. Time is a gift. So is talent. I don’t want to waste any more of either.
That’s why this first publishing contract represents so much more in my life than a book on the shelf at Barnes and Noble. After all, my book may never sell more than the dozen copies that my mother is sure to buy. Who knows how it will be received? If that is all that that contract meant for me, I’m not sure that I would give it another thought.
But this contract means something different completely. It means that I am moving. It means that I have finally broken camp and embraced this strange journey that God has set before me. He called me to do ministry in every form possible. I have no idea where this is going, or how it will end, but I am happy to say that I am finally following His lead.
* Never mind the fact that no one actually writes with a pen anymore. “Pen to paper” sounds way more eloquent then “fingers to keys”.