Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Who Will Fulfill Your Calling?

Today's post is for all of you who've been writing long enough to face heartache.

Maybe it's been one week, three months, or ten years in the making.

Maybe you don't even know why you're still doing this, except out of habit.

Maybe you feel like your writing life has become a going-through-the-motions process, a shell of what it used to be.

And maybe, a little part of you wonders if God has forgotten about you, as you sit with your laptop late at night, dreaming of the stories on your heart.

We know how it goes. You remember when you first started writing--the dreams and hopes you carried for your writing's future. You were going to change the world through your stories. Your books were going to be filled with vision and hope, and they would minister to readers as your own favorite books have ministered to you. Then, little by little, things changed. The rejections started piling up. You accumulated a few funny stories of failed pitches. And the stories that were so very close to your heart-- well, you had to tell them goodbye, at least for a season.

Sound familiar?

In my experience, after weeks, months, and years of the ups and downs of writing life, we begin developing coping strategies. We don't spend quite as much time daydreaming about the day we'll finally get to work alongside an editor. We may not be quite as brave about taking chances with our stories. We've been down that road before, and it didn't sell. We wince as we write our rough drafts, hearing the ever-present echo of our own voices saying, "What if you're still not ready?" The overly-harsh contest criticism comes back with a vengeance when we least expect it, and we begin to wonder if our critics were right. If the market is just a little too hard. If maybe we should keep our stories to ourselves, where it feels--let's face it--safer.

I get this tendency, because I've learned that the longer I write, the harder rejection becomes. Why is that? Personally, I think it's because becoming a better writer means becoming more vulnerable to your stories.

But last week, I saw this verse in a friend's Facebook feed, and it really challenged me.

Esther 4:12-13- "When Esther's words were reported to Mordecai, he sent back this answer: 'Do not think that because you are in the king's house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father's family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?"


So, to give a little bit of background for this situation, Queen Esther hasn't exactly been a wimp in this story. She's already been selected as part of this large group of women vying for the king's attention, and she gives up everything she knows to ultimately win the king's favor and find such grace from God in the process. But then, a plot arises within the king's court to destroy the Jews, and so Mordecai goes as close as he can get to the king's gate, and he puts on sackcloth and ashes. Through a messenger, he explains the situation to Esther and tells her his plan. He wants Esther to go before the king and petition him on behalf of the Jews. Thing is, the law states that anyone who approaches the king without being summoned will be killed unless the king extends his scepter, and it's been thirty days since the king has called upon Esther.

Her initial response? Um, thanks but I don't think so. She reminds Mordecai of the gravity of the situation. The king could order her to be killed! I'm sure at this point, a million things were running through Esther's mind. Wasn't there any other way for the Jews to be spared?

And yet, Mordecai's response is striking. He says in reply, if you remain silent, deliverance will arise from another place. 

He then goes on to ask, "Who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?"

See, Esther had a calling upon her life. Her place in the kingdom, and the favor she had in the king's eyes was not by mistake. God put her there and allowed her choices to bring about deliverance for His people. 

But think about it this way. What if Esther had said no?

Where would deliverance have come from? Would we be reading of another woman's story in the chapters of her book? Because the verse clearly states that deliverance was coming, one way or another.

I don't know about you, but I don't want to miss out on fulfilling my calling. Like Esther, each of us have been called to a particular place and season in life, and in the writing journey. If you have stepped out in faith and started writing a novel (or perhaps you've just finished your 11th book and are experienced in this journey), then you have stepped into the king's palace, just as Esther did, and that's awesome. But see, here's the thing. Esther's initial act of faith and obedience isn't enough. She has to approach the king and put it all on the line in order for the Jewish people to be saved. And in a similar way, we as writers must wholly give our hearts again and again and again to our stories. When the rejections and the criticism and the negative reviews begin flooding in, it's not enough that we just keep writing. We must gather up the pieces of our disappointment, and learn to be brave, because each of us is where we are for such a time as this.

I hope you're encouraged as you look at Esther's story to dream big dreams again for your writing journey. Don't give up on God's calling for your life and ministry, because He hasn't given up on you.

Do you ever feel beat up by the rigors of the writing life? What keeps you pressing on toward your calling?


Ashley Clark writes romantic comedy with southern grace. She's dreamed of being a writer ever since the thumbprint-cookie-days of library story hour. Ashley has an M.A. in English and enjoys teaching literature courses at her local university. She's an active member of ACFW and runs their newcomer's loop. When she's not writing, Ashley's usually busy rescuing stray animals and finding charming new towns. You can find Ashley on her personal blogFacebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. She is represented by Karen Solem.


Karen @ a house full of sunshine said...

Can I just say Ashley that I see this calling all over you. It just emanates from you with every word you write. So sure that God has big plans for you. There's so much anointing on your life.

This line almost made me tear up: "Don't give up on God's calling for your life and ministry, because He hasn't given up on you." That speaks to a very deep place in me. Thanks, Ash.

Angie Dicken said...

I am just so emotional right now. Did you write this for me, or what? HA!
Right now, I am doing a lesson on satisfaction in God, and it gets to me so much because I think I've viewed writing as my "food" for satisfaction. I stopped viewing it as my calling, which is a devastating thing. It makes my purpose drift from alignment with God, and become a focus on what I can do. Just like Esther, I hesitate to remain on this path because it is JUST TO HARD (thankfully I don't have my life at stake!), and it seems to be leading to a dead end (without a death penalty)!

But to remember that there is a time when God will say, "You are here for such a time as this," I want to push on a little longer.

Now that I think about it, I have seen glimpses of this along the way: like I told you before, with my community wanting me to speak to young writers at different places, with that one person who says my blog post was exactly what they needed to hear, with that friend who said my story made her want to love Jesus more. Why do I look back and only see rejection?
It's a matter of maturity, I think. Finding life in the small places is still LIFE. I guess, my Texas mentality of "the bigger the better" gets in the way! HA!
Thanks for this post. Sorry I rambled.

Unknown said...

"Again and again and again." That's the journey of this calling, isn't it? Giving our hearts over and over to the dream God won't let us run from. *Tears* Thanks for speaking encouragement to us over and over, Ashley. Your sweet and honest spirit has blessed me many times. You're not on the outskirts of your calling--you're walking in the fulfillment of it through your continual obedience to keep pressing forward along this journey.

Pepper said...

Oh wow! Did you write this for me today? :-)
I love getting a little glimpse into your heart through this post -and you're not only called to write, you're also called to encourage others.
It's CERTAINLY a gift that flows from you in words, smiles, and occasionally wrapped in chocolate. All of which I appreciate more than I can say!
Beautiful post from a beautiful friend

Ashley Clark said...

Karen, thank you so much! I feel the same way about you!

Ashley Clark said...

Lots of great things you mentioned, Ang, but I especially like what you said about gettin achievement focused. That's so easy to do, yet so dangerous for us!

Ashley Clark said...

Crystal, thank you so much for your sweet words!

Ashley Clark said...

Ha! Yes, the chocolate rings true. ;) Thank you, Pep! I feel the same way about you!

Julia M. Reffner said...

Wow, can I say that I'm sure this happens a lot and I'm just too slow to pick up on it, but I definitely think God was weaving a thread with the posts this week.

I love Esther and what a great application to our writing lives!

Your gift of writing is most certainly used in the body to encourage others and to spurr them on not only in their writing but in their spiritual callings. Love it!

Julia M. Reffner said...

I strongly believe in addition to your novels you are going to be an author like Janice Hannah Thompson who also encourages readers with devotionals.

Glynis said...

This is exactly what I've been hearing from God lately, so this post resonates so well with me. Beautifully said. Thanks for the reminder to open myself fully to God's use and pour my heart into whatever it is He wants me to say. And the same goes for all the rest of us writers :)

Ashley Clark said...

Aw, thank you, Julia! I would love doing that.

Ashley Clark said...

Glynis, isn't it cool whenever God gives us the same message from multiple places? Thank you for stopping by the Alley today!

Mary Vee Writer said...

This was such an awesome and inspired post. Thank you so much! I think many people needed to hear this.

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

Dang. This is awesome!!!! Got a late start today but I am sooo glad I read this. Needed it in a big way! Love u!