Why Write?

(Christian Courier, August 27th, 2012 issue)

This happens to me all the time. I decide on a topic. I mull it over. I scan my quotation file for that half-remembered gem teasing the edge of my consciousness. Then I get on my blogroll and read a post by someone who’s written on the same theme and arrived at the same conclusion. To top it off, the piece is so well-vinted, sparkling with poetic juice, that it seems rather pointless for me to even attempt my version. If you type Christian blogs into Google’s search engine, you’ll get 566,000,000 hits. Ann Voskamp, of One Thousand Gifts fame, has been blogging since 2003. James Schaap’s blog, Stuff in the Basement, has been the home of his wit and wisdom since 2007. That’s a lot of words! And those are only two of the bloggers I read regularly. Some days I wonder if there are more writers than readers!

So why would I bother, when I can go from lightbulb over my head to crestfallen chops hanging over my keyboard in the time it takes to click a link? How foolish and narcissistic to believe that I can create anything original of spiritual or literary value. Whenever I get thinking that way, though, I’ve got Daniel Meeter and Amy Adair in my back pocket. Thank the Lord for them.

I’ve never met Daniel Meeter. Quite sure he doesn’t know me, either. In January 1988, The Reformed Journal published his article, “Bowing before the Text.” A pastor, he describes his weekly wrestling match with biblical infallibility. He writes about the discipline required to bow before the text, to choose to submit to the holiness of the Word over and over again, as he prepares sermons. He bemoans the insufficiency of inerrancy doctrines and the deficits of kingdom-historical approaches and the unending compulsions and temptations to subjectivize the text. He concludes, “No interpretation of Scripture ever does it justice. No one is ever obedient enough to the text.” Every Sunday, he says, he preaches the gospel only as an act of faith in the person of God; “another moment in my lifelong conversion of my old self to the new.”

That assertion, “No interpretation of Scripture ever does it justice. No one is ever obedient enough to the text,” freed me as profoundly as the angel freed jailed Peter, striking him on the side with a good-old-boy punch. By 1988, I’d been expending critical energy for more than a decade, trying to comprehend what the Bible was saying about women, or more precisely, about me. Was I created in God’s image? Or Adam’s? Was I of equal worth as a man in God’s estimation? What about in the church? I’d read tomes on what the Bible has to say about women and their role in marriage, the church and society. If only I could reconcile all the conflicting exegeses! Meeter’s insight crystallized a moment of liberation. I couldn’t! No one’s interpretation of Scripture ever does it justice! It wasn’t about my ability to be obedient to the text. It was about the text’s ability to usher forth my Lord and Saviour, the Person, the one who was obedient for me.

Thanks to Daniel Meeter’s words, my chains fell off.

Amy Adair writes for thinkchristian.net. I’ve never met her. Pretty sure she doesn’t know me. When I was considering whether to take on the position of features editor for Christian Courier, stymied in my decision-making by my own insecurities, I recalled one of Amy’s posts about taking on challenges. She and her husband had adopted a little girl from China with significant developmental disabilities. She summed up: “It hasn’t always been easy, but stepping out of my comfort zone has allowed me to experience a new joy. I’m no longer going through the motions of my faith, but I get to experience and see God in a deep and profound way. I don’t want to think about what I would have missed if I had simply said, ‘I don’t want to do this. Adoption is too hard.’” Then she asked: “Are you listening to God? Is he asking you to do something? What would happen if you simply trusted him and stepped out in faith?” Amy’s questions kept resurfacing. Risk reframed as God’s invitation to step out in faith. Done. Here I am at CC.

Daniel and Amy don’t know how much they impacted me. Perhaps they, too, have wondered whether writing was a waste of their time. I bet if I read all of Voskamp’s or Schaap’s blog posts, or perused even a fraction of the 566,000,000 Google hits, I’d find posts that echoed those of Daniel or Amy, that expressed similar points of view, perhaps phrased even more eloquently. But, in God’s synchronicity, it was their words that found me and were salve to my soul.

Nancy Van Wyk Phillips, in a 1991 Perspectives article entitled “Divine Providence: Meaning in the Details,” discusses the depth of Calvin’s conception of providence and how it harmonizes, astonishingly, with the uncertainty principle of modern physics. Just as “it is impossible to predict events accurately at the molecular level, because the very act of observing the initial situation causes changes in the outcome,” so there is a mystery in God’s watching his world, in his will and power as he sustains it and provides blessings new each morning. “We might say with Calvin,” she writes, “that God’s will animates the world and all its events, and that meaningfulness is to be found in the smallest details of our lives.” I thank the Lord for Nancy. Her words undergird my faith. And, yes, I still have that issue, too.

What about you? This is not just about writers. Why do anything? Because God is using the details of our lives in ways we don’t know. Trust. Cast your bread upon the waters. Are you a good cook? Pass the biscuits! Have the gift of gab? Engage everyone you know with a smile and draw them in with your warmth. Paint? Fling your pigments like Jackson Pollock or sculpt your canvas like Van Gogh. Give yourself away, like Daniel Meeter or Amy Adair, so God can help someone like Cathy Smith. Serendipity in a Calvinist mold.