Write Before You've Arrived

The process of writing is such an up and down experience for me. As I prepare to launch my second book out into the world, I have been reflecting on the nature of writing, the difficulty of writing, and the reality that so often when we write (or teach in general), we are writing before we’ve arrived. And that’s a good thing.

When I write, I am painfully aware of my sin. I see how I don’t measure up. I don’t always do what I am calling others to. Instead, I feel like a fraud. My words seem unclear. I want to be faithful, but it doesn’t “feel” faithful. Are these questions and fear unique to me? I am sure not. The human experience is a universal one, so I imagine that by throwing this out there, insecurities and all, there will at least be one writer/teacher who wonders these very things. Or at least, I hope so.

But then there is the even more ugly flipside of my thought process regarding writing. There are moments where I feel good about it. I feel like the writing is clear. I feel like I have something to say that is going to change the world. In my most prideful moments, I feel like what I’m putting out there is the best anyone has ever seen. And it’s those moments that never go well. The seconds of feeling adequate quickly descend into minutes, hours, and days of wondering if I’m doing all of this for naught. Pride comes before a fall (Prov. 16:8)). Because writing, teaching, and speaking are not for the adequate. This ministry is for the weak. It’s for the dependent. It’s for the broken. It’s for the lowly. Writing is for the shadows, not the center stage. We are not meant for the spotlight. Only God is. When we try to use our gifts to take his place, it never goes well. Why would we expect God to use us any differently than he does the saints in scripture? He uses the weak to shame the strong (1 Cor. 1:27). The fools to shame the wise. The broken to shame the whole. So he gets all the glory. He shares the stage with no one else.

I have begun to see writing (and teaching) as containing many stages. Denial. Doubt. Mourning. It’s painful to process it all for public consumption and then wonder if it’s even worthwhile. But I’ve also come to see writing as gracious means of God to humble me and make me ever more dependent on him.

And this is a mercy to us, not a slight. I was reminded of this while reading the story of the Tower of Babel the other day (Gen. 11:1-9). If you remember, they wanted to build a tower because they wanted to make a name for themselves. They wanted to get glory. They wanted it all on their terms, not God’s, and we are just like them. We want glory. We want to make a name for ourselves. We want all the praise. So he breaks us and confuses us to protect us from our own pride and self-promotion. Just like those in the Tower of Babel, what feels good to us (self-promotion) often leads to our own destruction.

And yet, God still uses us.

He is good. He is patient. He strips us of our need for self-promotion, our self-sufficiency, our need to feel like we are adequate in this task, and then he reveals that only he is the one who can establish our work (Ps. 90:17).

He calls us clay pots for a reason (2 Cor. 4:7-9). Easily discarded, but still useful for service. He keeps us in places of humility as a mercy to us. But he still allows us to hold the greatest treasure in the universe. If I’m truly honest, I don’t want to be a clay pot. I want to be something better, something flashier. But I’m not. I’m a broken vessel. I am, as one preacher has said, “just one beggar, telling other beggars where to find bread.” I’m just as hungry as the next beggar. I just have a gift that allows me to point us all in the direction of sustenance.

Yet, I’m still called to serve, to use my gifts in all my broken inadequacies. So are you. In this, God is glorified. In this, we see how he is more powerful than our lack of power. In this, we are reminded that we have a good God, who will establish us in our gifts.

Write before you’ve arrived. It might feel awkward and uncertain at times, but it’s exactly where God wants you. It’s where he shines most brightly.