The Writer's Life


Last week, Kevin DeYoung offered some really helpful advice to pastors who are also writers. Among other things, he challenged them to remember that their primary ministry is to their congregations and even suggested submitting their publishing aspirations to the counsel of those closest to them. This advice has shown itself to be particularly prescient as the Christian publishing world wrestles through allegations of plagiarism and growing questions about the legitimacy of ghostwriting.

DeYoung’s advice was aimed at those in ministry, but I think it applies to most writers for this reason: Very, very few of us will actually make our living as a “writer.”

Very, very few of us will spend our working days in front of a computer (or scribbling in our moleskin notebooks) in order to share our deepest thoughts with a waiting world. Even if we get that elusive “book deal.” Case in point: a friend of mine has published four novels with a major Christian house, has a contract for more and still finds that she has to work at something other than writing. So she works another job, is a wife and mother, and only in the in-between moments, a writer.

Like her, the majority of us write for the sheer passion of it. We have been gifted to do this; we have heard God’s call to speak a specific message; and in His providence, He has given us opportunities to proclaim that message. But along the way, we end up doing a lot of other things. And this is fine. In fact, I believe it’s more than fine. It is good.

So much of this goes back to how we understand calling and gifting. (Or should I say, how we misunderstand calling and gifting.) When I was younger, I believed that my calling was some sort of magic—that God would reveal “His will” for my life and I would then commit myself to a specific job. In high school, I thought it might be mission work. When I was in college, I thought it would be teaching. After I married a boy headed to ministry, I thought it would be found in being a pastor’s wife. And once I had children, I thought my “calling” would be motherhood.

But there was something I misunderstood. God does not call His image bearers to categories or abstractions. God calls them to life. He call them to a specific embodiment in a specific place and time for a specific purpose. In my case, it is a life that includes being a pastor’s wife, a mother, a writer and a whole host of other things that work in coordination to reflect Him in a unique way. Truth be told, we really can’t even discuss calling apart from the specific image bearer who is called.

Here’s what I mean: about two weeks ago, I posted a link to a video that celebrated the life of the stay-at-home-mom. Many of the scenes were familiar to me—the small acts of care, the late nights and early mornings, the countless hours in the kitchen.  I found it beautiful and affirming of work that often goes unheralded. But shortly after I posted it, a friend tweeted this response: “It was pretty sweet, but a very specific kind of motherhood for a specific cultural context. Not my experience.”

At first, I was surprised, but then I realized, of course, it wasn’t. This film wasn’t depicting an abstract calling—it couldn’t; it was depicting the lives of three specific women who happened to be stay-at-home moms. There is no such thing as a “job” apart from the one who embodies that job. There is no such thing as a role apart from person who gives form to that role. There is no such thing as a position apart from the image bearer who lends life to that position.

What does this mean for writing?

Those of us who write must have faith to believe that the other things we do—whether it is pastoral work or motherhood—make us the people that God calls us to be. We must have enough faith to believe that these things are not in conflict with each other but are all part of His Providence. We—no, I—must have enough faith to believe that being a mother makes me a better writer and being a writer makes me a better mother because He has called me to both.

This is not easy, and often we feel like we will be torn apart by the very things that God has created us to do. We crave the safety that comes from ordering our lives in an efficient hierarchy. We long to know ourselves in terms of job descriptions and boundaries; we want to understand where we belong—to be able to definitively identify ourselves, to say, “I am a ____________.”

But what if God never intended for us to find safety in anything other than Him? What if He is the only One who can make sense of the competing forces in our lives?  What if He is the only One who can reconcile all things under His feet—even our unique callings?

What if this is precisely what He intends to do?

The God who Himself exists in wholeness invites us to live in this wholeness. He calls us to peace. But this only happens when everything in life comes under His headship. When every part of us is submitted to Jesus Christ, when He pervades every facet of our being, when nothing else—not our writing, not our motherhood, not our pastoral roles—has preeminence. Because when He is supreme over all, all will be unified. All the different parts of our lives will work together because they have been united by something greater than themselves.

And suddenly there is peace.

I don’t know what this means for your life. For me, it means submitting to the calling to write and mother and love my husband and clean the kitchen floors and hem the curtains. It means submitting to the multi-dimensional, layered, crazy existence God has given me. It means pursuing my work with passion and abandon, at the same time that I hold it loosely, never once believing that these roles give me my core identity. For me, embracing God’s calling for my life starts by embracing Him. By finally understanding that all things—my motherhood, my writing, my personality, my gifting—all these things “flow from Him and through Him and unto Him." To him be glory forever. Amen.