On a rough day, my husband will cheer me up with a dozen yellow roses. For some reason, it’s often before we go out of town, so I immediately think how we will receive a sad, wilted welcome when we return from our trip. It feels like a waste of beauty.
How many days and months go into cultivating a single yellow rose? Daily sunlight, water and fertilizer encourage it to grow. At just the right moment, it is snipped, sold and carried from the store by some well-meaning suitor or lover (or more likely, a female who treats herself to this little luxury every once in a while). All for what? To sit on our crumb-laden kitchen tables for a few days, splashing our rooms with color and assaulting our senses with scent only to be thrown in the trash within the week?
Sometimes this is how publishing a piece of writing feels. When I think about the days, months and years that have preceded putting my thoughts into words, then the hours of molding and shaping them, coaxing out the beauty, the grace, the deeper meaning, it reminds me of these roses. I am the gardener and yet I also decide when my words are ready to be cut and offered to the world. When my offering of words is welcomed, I smile. And yet how quickly the glory fades as my article is overlapped by another, then another, then another article until what felt like vibrant, fresh and life-breathing words become faded and forgotten.
So is writing (without monetary compensation) even worth it?
Last night I tried out a complicated new recipe. I sipped red wine, dancing between the recipe on my computer screen and turning up the volume of the “evening acoustic” album on Pandora. My husband wrestled with the kids on the rug in the living room while I chopped onions, garlic and peppers to toss into the simmering oil in the pan. He took the kids out for a dusk walk and I relaxed into the smells, sounds and feel of a kitchen in use. When they returned, we washed tiny hands, strapped kids into high chairs and bowed heads to pray in spite of spoons banging and feet kicking.
If you’re a parent, then you know what came after this seemingly magical moment.
“Yuck,” my son said, pushing his dish away. My daughter picked out a few pieces of food, but also declared my meticulously prepared meal “yucky.” My husband and I finished eating in less than 15 minutes and just like that—after nearly an hour of preparation–it was over.
But here’s the thing. Even though the food was underappreciated, consumed quickly and the process will need to be repeated tomorrow and the next day, it was still worth it. Why?
Because the process of preparation fed my soul. The meal gave us a reason to sit down together as a family. And it provided nourishment for the hungry ones at the table.
Just like your writing.
As you write, God is working out what He is working in you. You will experience the Holy Spirit as you muse and marvel at the images He hands you, saying, “Take these and give them away.” Like those dozen yellow roses, your words will be welcomed by the ones who need them most. It would be a shame not to share your story with the world just as it would be a shame to grow roses behind the rusty shed in your backyard where no one would ever see them. Your words are a testament to God’s presence at work in ordinary human beings like you.
I, too, get concerned with the seeming “waste” of it all. (And hear me when I say that it is fantastic to be paid for your lovely words if someone is willing to pay you.)
But some metaphors from the Bible come rushing to mind as I think about giving away our words. You are Mary Magdalene breaking—not reserving—her precious alabaster jar at the feet of Jesus in an act of pure worship. You are the widow of Zaraphath wanting to clutch your last bit of flour and oil to your chest instead of giving it away to a man who needs it (and so providing the impetus for a daily refilling). You are the little boy offering loaves and fish to be multiplied for the nourishment of thousands. Or the widow who gives her last two mites—all she has to live on. You are the Israelites gathering, preparing and eating their daily manna—no more and no less than they need—only to do it again the next day.
If we are lovers of Jesus, then hoarding our gifts is not an option. We are to give freely, generously and wildly, because we never know how the miracles will play out. Our little may become much, or it may be consumed immediately only to be needed again tomorrow. We never know how many will be fed or if it will only feed our soul, but we can know God will keep on giving as we keep on doling out our portion to any who ask for it (and even to some who don’t).
The heart of living a Jesus-centered life is selfless sacrifice. And if you have been given the gift of words, then you are meant to share them.