Just yesterday, I received a letter in the mail from my lovely college friend, Amy. Amy and I traveled to Africa together in college with a team of three other students from Wheaton College, one of whom is now my husband. (The missionary we'd stayed with had warned about the amorous powers of the African moon. He was right.) I remember when Mali's first summer rain flooded our room - and destroyed our inventory of feminine hygiene products. If you are a woman, you will understand that panic that ensues when you realize the tampons you've brought from America are now useless, and there's an ocean between you and Walmart.
Amy and I shared that moment. I guess it's kind of an inseparable bond.
Amy and I are still in touch (yes, we're both graying by now), and she, having recently felt nudged by God to write, has shared a little bit of her journey with me. Like any writer who has spent significant time before a blank page, Amy's discovered the demons of self-doubt. They're a nasty bunch, I tell her, confessing how I've tried to tame a few and give them a loving home. I warn her not to try this.
I've given Amy whatever feeble advice I have to offer, but I find she's making her own extraordinary sense of this particular calling in her life. She doesn't need my help at all.
In fact, she's got a project now that she's begun, which she's calling "Heart to Hearten." Over the next year, each day Amy will be writing a handwritten letter of encouragement to a friend or acquaintance, and it will specifically include a passage of Scripture.
Why do I love this project so much and find it to be such a faithful expression of the calling to write?
1. Because she's writing as an act of love. Love God, love others - pen that on a page, and honor your calling in the most fundamental of ways.
2. Because she's seeking to communicate God's truth. I am sure that Amy feels as I feel: we have nothing to say. Split our skulls down the middle, and find them hollow. Writing isn't discovering truth: it's discovering new ways in which old things can be said. So get your nose in the Book, and start telling someone what you find.
3. Because she's writing everyday. God's calling you to do something? You feel inadequate? Ill-equipped? Practice, honey. It's no more glamorous that showing up, sitting down, and resisting the disappointment that it should feel different and you should feel more important.
4. Because it blesses. I got my note in the mail yesterday from Amy and opened it to find these words. "Jen, one of my favorite things about you is your constant willingness to be real. . . . I am certain this will be a reason your book will stand out . . . Your vulnerability and honesty will draw your readers in and have a lasting impact on them."
I'm writing the chapter on confession this week, and this note, written probably weeks ago and delivered at Canada Post's notoriously slack pace, arrived on the very day I needed it - as a reminder to write as honestly and authentically as I can. I am blessed.
(Although I confess: I like you knowing she things the book will " stand out.")
Write for your neighbor, says Calvin Seerveld. (He's someone famous and smart, so you should probably listen.)
Or said this way (by me, someone un-famous and obtuse), be a neighbor: and write.