Wednesday, February 22, 2012

This and That Thursday: God's Providence

What are God's works of providence?
A. God's works of providence are his most holy, wise and powerful preserving and governing all his creatures, and all their actions.

The Presbyterian in me couldn’t help but throw in a catechism question for ya. I’ve been thinking a lot about God’s providence lately—in many areas of my world. Today, I’ll focus on that big nebulous zone I call my writing life.

Have I told you the story of how I first got published? I’ll keep it brief, but basically the owner of Summerside Press contacted me (yeah, HE contacted ME) and asked if I wanted to write a book for them. (He was a friend, but I didn’t know he owned Summerside!) Crazy, right?

The thing is, I’d worked for years (…twelve!) to get published and only received rejections. Some were stock, with a box checked off. Other letters were more personal and kind. The best ones gave clues why it was rejected. At least those gave me something to work on.

So many of those nasty letters had bombarded me, I finally decided to give up. I was done with the whole blasted getting published thing. No more query letters, no more proposals, no more elevator pitches, and no more following the trends. Done!

It felt great to let it all go. I was content blogging and writing my novel at my own pace. Peace. Tranquility. Then, bam! The door opened wide. A FaceBook message from my friend the publisher changed everything. And my first book contract landed in my mailbox almost faster than I was ready for. Despite my intention to give up, I gladly walked on through (more like skipped). Yay! God was finally blessing me.

Everything was going great. I thought surely my writing career would take off and never slow down again. But that’s not what happened. In between the contracts came that old familiar time of … crickets.

You know what I mean. An idea comes a-knocking, you swoop it up, play with it, create a premise, proposal, chapters, outline—fun! Send it to an editor or agent, then … crickets. Nothing happens. Weeks turn into months, and doubt and discouragement set in. As much as it felt like God’s favor guided in the earlier success, I worried that He bailed when I was left waiting.

But that’s just bunk, isn’t it?

Do you remember that section in Numbers when the Israelites were stuck in the wilderness? God guided their movements with a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. If He wanted them to set out, the cloud would move, guiding them. And if He wanted them to stay put, the cloud just hung there. Sometimes it settled in for months, even years.

How ridiculous if the Israelites would’ve said, “The Lord loves us when the cloud is moving, but not when the cloud is still.”

Yet, that’s how I feel sometimes. If my dreams are coming true, if goals pan out, if my hard work is rewarded, God loves me. A rejection letter, a long period of waiting (so common in this profession!), or a critical review means He doesn’t love me.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t consciously think this. I'm not that spiritually immature. Well, maybe I am, because even though I know better, I act the opposite. Like the Israelites, I grumble. Not out loud at first, but eventually my poor husband hears something like this, “I’m not even a writer! Why do I try? Who am I kidding calling myself an author? I’ll never get another contract.”


What lies beneath those whines is a heart that worries that God doesn’t love me anymore. I admit it. I sometimes don’t REALLY believe it. "Do You really love me? Really?" And when things don’t go my way, it proves the lie to me. Nope. He must not truly care. See. I knew it.

But, then. That whisper. You know it. All we sheep know it.

“You are mine. I haven’t left you. I haven’t forgotten your longing to write. I am with you.”

He’s with you.

The cloud never left the people of Israel. His presence was always there, when the cloud moved or stayed still. He was still there.

“I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5 ESV

So when the cloud seems stuck in the sky, unmoving—I seek to find comfort in His presence. Remembering there’s more to life than the next big writing opportunity, and maybe, just maybe, He knows best.

He does know best, of course, and more amazing than that? He loves me.

He loves me when I get a message out of the blue from an old friend who happens to own Summerside Press, and when all I hear is crickets. He always loves me. In all the ups and downs of this writing life, His love never changes.