Monday, January 11, 2016

Would you?

If God told you to write a book for one person, would you?

I was challenged by a friend who asked this question (not to me in particular, but in a general sort of way). My first response was to immediate answer, "Of course. Of course I would do whatever God wanted me to so." But there was a niggling doubt in my heart.

As I thought about the difficulties of finding the exact words to express my ideas, experiences and emotions; the time it would take to write and rewrite; the cost of going to conferences to hone my skills and pay for an editor. Would I do it for one person?

I found myself adding provisos. Yes, I would if that one person's heart was so changed that they in turn touched another and another and another. Yes, I would if that one person was the next Billy Graham or D.L. Moody. Yes, I would if that one person was overwhelmingly appreciative.

Yet I know God doesn't add provisos. He didn't add provisos when he sent Jesus. God didn't say, "I'll only allow Jesus to die if enough people repent"; "I'll only allow Jesus to die if they prove their commitment"; "I'll only allow Jesus to die if enough people live godly lives." When I analysed my reasoning I have to acknowledge that if God asks me to do something, I can't add conditions. I have to accept he knows best.

I thought I'd finished this post but then I read, Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, and she talks about the book she wrote after her father died of a brain tumour and another book she wrote a couple of years later when another friend also died of cancer. She writes: "I just wanted to write a book for my father that might also help someone going through a similar situation… I got to write books about my father and my best friend and they got to read them before they died. Can you imagine? I wrote for an audience of two who I loved and respected, who loved and respected me."

Whether our audience is large or small, we write believing God will use our words to touch another.

*****


Susan Barnes likes to write devotional thoughts on Bible passages, book reviews and inspirational articles. She loves to challenge people's thinking and regularly blogs at abooklook.blogspot.com.au. She is also a librarian and pastor's wife.

16 comments:

  1. Great post Susan. Thank you for sharing. A difficult one to answer of course. I have to say that this thought has underpinned a lot of what I have done as a Christian. When I began a support group many years ago, I told myself that if we helped one person through it, it would be worthwhile. 9 years later I believe we helped lots more than just the one. But it was a good kind of motivation because I believe firmly in the individual. I know Jesus treated every individual as important and I know we need to follow His lead.

    A few years back, I wrote a book meant to encourage Christians going through tough times. I told myself then that if it helped one person it would be worth it. I haven't had it published yet, but I have shared parts of it with different friends at different times. The first person I shared with said it made a huge difference in her life. And so - I felt then (and still do) that writing that book was worth it - even if it was only this lady who was helped.

    I still hope it would be published. But if not. No matter. God has used it in a few lives already and I am very grateful. So thank you. Your post resontated with me.

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  2. A great post Susan.

    I would have said no I wouldn't. Until I did.

    I wrote a non-fiction book for couples having trouble conceiving and was getting a bit disappointed with how slowly it was selling.

    Then I got an email: "I just wanted to let you know that my husband and I have read your book, and it's the reason we're still together. We've been through the stresses of IVF for ten years and your book gave us a way to talk to each other when we thought we were over. So thanks."

    The feeling of purpose after that one email was tangible ... and the sales really didn't matter any more.

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  3. I wrote a book for my father's 60th birthday. He and my mother read it. I'd like to dig it out and edit it again, given that was 21 years ago. But it was worth doing.

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  4. I think I would, Susan. I'd have to be very sure I had understood what God was saying and was not being sentimental or something, though. All that work! Great post.

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  5. I have an unpublished book, the sequel to my first children's fantasy, which was written for just one person. I certainly didn't know it at the time - I thought I was writing for a much larger audience. When the publisher of Merlin's Wood went bankrupt, I wondered why I had put so much effort into a sequel no publisher would want. But years later, in a very complex prayer ministry session for a person affected by ritual abuse, I suddenly realised all the answers were in that book I'd written. And I realised I'd written that book just for her. A stranger. But her healing led to her family's healing. Would I do it again? Absolutely. I am in the middle of another fantasy; again it's for one person. But this time, I've already met her and we're discovering together what clues God has given us to put the jigsaw of her life together.

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  6. Thanks for your thought-provoking post, Susan. How wonderful too to read each of the testimonies in the comments above! I remember receiving an email not long after my first novel was published from a lady I didn't know in WA who wrote how, in the difficult times in her life, she had found God HADN'T been there for her--unlike the heroine in my novel. But then she wrote 'But maybe I should try Him again.' I don't know if she did--but at that point, I decided writing a book for just one person was worth it all in the end.

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  7. That's a very good question, Susan. I've started writing projects with a particular person in mind, and it's great whenever I hear feedback from others saying that it spoke to them too. I guess a book may help bring people together, showing that we are not as separate and alone as we may think.
    Also, I think of scruffy old covered books which were written decades before I was born, which spoke to me. I obviously wasn't the person they were written for, but like to think I joined on down the track.

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  8. Thought-provoking post Susan. It would be hard to put all that effort in for just one person, but you never know what ripple effects it will have for the Kingdom. I was inspired by a biography of Henrietta Mears, a woman who wrote Sunday School curricula for different age levels back in the mid 1900s when such a thing was unheard of. She also taught college students in her home and had a significant impact on Billy Graham and Bill Bright (Founder of Campus Crusade). When she helped guide them as young men, she couldn't have known how many millions they would reach for the Gospel. It may sometimes seem that our writing isn't having a lot of impact in worldly terms, but you never know how it fits into God's economy.

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  9. Great question Susan and some wonderful responses.

    I had a direct message today about some links I'd put up on my FB page & my other pages, Jenny's Thread and possibly my author page that said 'Are you specifically sharing stuff for me today?' and then went on to talk about a difficult situation she was facing. Maybe no one else was touched today, but knowing that God was guiding and using those choices makes it more than worthwhile.

    As for writing a book - or books - I've gone so far with them that I would write them even if no one else read them, because I would still have read them. Knowing that God could use them to change one persons life would be exhilarating. Besides if God said to do it, then who am I to question. Actually, I think I'd find it harder not to write those books - if God told me to stop - but then, as hard and as heartbreaking that would be, I guess I would have to obey that direction too. I'm hoping He doesn't do that :)

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  10. Thanks Susan for posing this challenging question. It's probably not quite what you had in mind, but I'm certainly open to writing a book on behalf of another. I gave my 81 year old father a journal for Christmas and told him to write his story. His family torn apart by the Liverpool Blitz and the evacuation of children during World War II, he has a story worth telling. I am happy to type up his scribbling and even if he never reads it himself, my prayer is that by writing, he will find healing.

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  11. Thanks Susan for posing this challenging question. It's probably not quite what you had in mind, but I'm certainly open to writing a book on behalf of another. I gave my 81 year old father a journal for Christmas and told him to write his story. His family torn apart by the Liverpool Blitz and the evacuation of children during World War II, he has a story worth telling. I am happy to type up his scribbling and even if he never reads it himself, my prayer is that by writing, he will find healing.

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  12. Terrific post Susan!
    I have also enjoyed reading everyone's comments, thanks for sharing!

    Sometimes I wonder if my writing is only for me - does God intend for me to inspire and encourage myself?
    From my self-published book I have found people have been touched, encouraged, inspired and there is absolutely no price-tag one can attach to that! (and it sure doesn't matter I am not on the NY best sellers list with my 'first' book)

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  13. Thanks everyone for your comments. It's been so encouraging to read your responses and to hear your heart for God's work. I've loved hearing how God has worked through your writing efforts. Thanks for sharing.

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  14. Fabulous post, Susan. That question gave me pause and I had to think about it before I read the rest of your words. Very thought-provoking words. I love Anne Lamont. Thank you so much.

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  15. That is such a statement about obedience - I value that! But how special that your dad and friend got to read your book_ such a blessing for you and them.
    Wow

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  16. Thank you Susan. I just did. I wrote a book just in case one person would benefit. And this happened. Mission accomplished.

    Very encouraging story. Thank you so much for sharing.

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