For most of my writing career, I’ve been a novelist. I steered clear from a personal blog for several years because I wanted to avoid exposure. Then, I moved to Chile and a blog was one of the ways I could stay in touch. I wrote honest things, but they were nice things. Things most people would agree with. I did my best not to mess with the status quo. Then I got divorced, and my nice, fuzzy status quo flew out the window. To top it all off, this last fall, at the height of American election, I decided to speak out against Donald Trump. (What was I thinking?)
When Trump’s popularity increased and I discovered well-known Christians were endorsing his prayer life as some form of political security for the right-wing, it became clear that those of us who use our words as a way of life, needed to find a few and speak up. It scared me to death. I have many friends who are Trump supporters, or at least right-wing Christians who have voted for the Republican Party their entire lives and it felt really complicated to me. And yet as much as I care for my friends, I couldn’t stay silent during this particular election. The stakes seemed too high.
I believed Trump would lose. I trusted the collective voice of the nay-sayers would hold back his superficial elitist mentality masquerading as the voice-of-the-forgotten and stem the tide. I trusted people would recognize how unqualified he was for a political role of that caliber.
Talk about living in a bubble. An entire demographic, dormant and silent, reared its head and made their voices heard. Election night, I sat on my couch and cried as the polls rolled in.
When my children were little, my vocation changed. I found myself in the middle of a wilderness trying to figure out who I was and what it was I was supposed to be doing on this earth. I lost a beloved job in my church, and without a title, I was more bereft than I anticipated. My newfound life as a mother was more and less than what I bargained for. I wanted a title, a vocation, something to give me significance. Folding laundry and wiping my daughter’s bum ten times a day didn’t suffice.
In that wild wilderness of early motherhood, I started talking to God in a new way. Let’s call it a desperate way. My assumptions of what made someone important came under God’s scrutiny. God called to mind some of the great loves of my life—recurring patterns that when strewn together revealed something about my own identity, something I had been blind to while caught in the great machine of vocational church work.
God’s voice came out of the whirlwind of my chaos. Simple words.
I want you to write. I want YOU to write. I WANT you to write. I want you to WRITE.
I had no idea what to write. My capacity to imagine the implication of God’s words was small. Had I relished in my smallness, in my inadequacy, in the oddness of hearing God speak those strange words, I would have shrugged them off and moved on, attempted to find a job in another church, or in a non-profit Christian organization. But in an odd bit of providence, there was something about those five words that reverberated in my subconscious, and echoed out like ripples across a still pond.
I started small.
One word after another, like a blind child feeling her way through an expansive field.
I wrote a terrible first half of an espionage novel, and then another. I wrote some articles that were horrible. I read Anne Lamott, Sol Stein, Stephen King, Madeleine L’Engle and many others. I practiced day after day. I wrote during my children’s nap time. I wrote in the evenings. I started to dream up scenes while I was asleep.
Everyone rejected everything I wrote for years. Mainly because my writing was bad. But it served as the foundation, the bedrock of a true calling. I needed to figure out how to write, to find my voice, to imagine things, to play with sentences and fiddle around with plot and character development. I needed to grow my capacity.
Twelve years later, two published novels, and several books sitting on the desktop, I’m most at home with the written word.
After the election and my subsequent loss, I fell into a confused rift. What now? I risked so much laying out my opinions. I fought with dear people I cared for. I exposed my true opinions. There was no going back.
A couple weeks into Trump’s victory, in the shadow of my morning coffee-drinking-Bible-reading thin place, I heard the still small voice … I want you to write.
The calling does not change because our circumstances change.
The call remains the same. It’s our capacity we must deal with, our resilience that gets addressed. We grow our capacity to be who we are called to be, not by fighting against the dark voices that to try to hold us back, or by trying to prove ourselves to those negative people, but by faithfully listening to the all-affirming whisper of God and taking feeble steps to do and be who God is urging us to become.