Writing is like speaking a language and writer’s block happens when you’ve gone a while without speaking it. It’s like any other exercise, to be strong, one must practice. I’ve been flexing my writing muscles over in another place on my laptop the past few months, watching chapters take shape, quotes find place, and points be made. I share an illustration in one chapter that a friend told me a few months ago, a story about his grandfather. His grandfather was whittling wood from the pile. “How do you know what it’s going to be,” my friend asked him. “Well, son, this block of wood you see is an eagle. My job is just to take away all the parts that aren’t eagle.”
Writing is a bit like that, taking a big block of wood (or cheese, for you West Wingers among us), kind of knowing what you want it to be and then stripping away the words that don’t belong until you’re left with a halfway presentable piece.
Sanctification is also like this and sometimes we get out of practice there too. I forget who I’m supposed to look like (Christ) and stop submitting myself to the whittling away process of sanctification. I react rather than respond. I succumb rather than submit. I falter rather than have faith. And then one day I wake up and realize my muscles have atrophied and responding in right action feels more difficult than before. The old “two steps back” adage applies here.
I tell a friend last night (incidentally the same friend who told me the story about his grandfather months ago) that most of us are just walking in the faith we have for the day, but sometimes the Spirit makes a thing clear to us, we ignore it, and our path begins diverging from God’s best. We’re not hopelessly lost, of course, grace, grace, upon grace. But we begin to carry that seed of rebellion or disappointment in our pocket, caressing it, secreting it away, and sometimes it becomes so hidden we even forget it’s there. But it’s still clinging to our every day just the same. Bitterness. Resentment. Fear. Doubt. It begins to inform every relationship, decision, and season of our lives. It still seems like a tiny seed hidden away, but it’s actually become a monstrosity in our hearts.
I’ve had some realization about one of these seeds in my life the past few weeks. It startled me with its presence and the clarity with which I first saw it. I felt shocked that such a thing existed and was informing nearly every relationship in my life. Every friendship—even with my husband—was teetering on a question of trust. My trust had been tried in a friendship and I carried that distrust with me everywhere, trying to sense if a person was trustworthy, could handle my true self, and would respond kindly. I’ve had to stop, reflect on what God’s word says about trusting flesh (my own and others), and reorient my heart toward the people I love and the God who will never harm me.
All of life for the Christian is spent hearing, listening, reading, and knowing God’s word and then also doing it. But our culture, even our Christian, culture, doesn’t really make a lot of space for that. We appropriate our culture’s verbiage for everything and then wonder why simple obedience in the face of hard things is so hard. Simple obedience is hard. It causes us to flinch from its pain. “Anyone who says differently,” as Wesley, dear sweet Wesley said, “is selling something.”
Our culture is selling us something, ease, success, cheeriness, perfect abs, airbrushed images. But most of us, if we’re honest, are just a block of wood getting chiseled away at by the Master Maker. There’s an eagle in there somewhere, but not yet, not today. Not until we see Him face to face in glory.
If you have the time today, I encourage you to get a moment of quiet and ask the Lord if there’s a seed you’ve been carrying in your pocked. Maybe it’s from the fruit of a disappointing relationship, maybe it’s what you dream about planting to make a name for yourself, maybe it’s a bitter root forming, or maybe you don’t even know it’s there. Ask him how it’s been informing your day, your actions, your view of him, your view of others. And ask him if he’ll remove it and plant in its place a seed of faith for a different outcome. That’s what I’m praying for in place of the seed of fear I’ve had: Would you plant in me faith for a different outcome? I know he can and so I’m asking him to.