I’m pleased and praising God to announce that my e-book The Hunger Blessing recently won the Writer’s Digest Self-Published E-Book Awards Competition in the Inspirational category! This is by all accounts a very cool thing: I have a neat cash prize coming my way, I got $100 worth of free books as part of the prize package, and the book’ll get a mention in the spring issue of Writer’s Digest.
But mostly I am writing about it because there is a cool God story behind this (as there is behind all things) and I wanted to share it to encourage any of you who might be struggling lately with your call, with what God wants to do with you, or with what is waiting for you.
Simply put: I entered the competition because I didn’t think I would win.
The thing is, I was tired. I have felt the call to write and to teach since before high school. The teaching calling has been satisfied in one form or another since then; the writing one has been a thornier issue. I’ve been writing for decades, and have always believed I have been meant to write and to write particular things…but at the same time, closed doors were wearing me down. Frustrated that my plans hadn’t been working out as I’d hoped or expected, I came to a point where I started to ask myself and God: am I not supposed to be doing this? How long do I bother trying before I give up?
In the middle of this period I’d been reading John Ortberg’s If You Want To Walk On Water, which is a book that reminds Christians they are meant to attempt impossible and beyond-the-pale things in Jesus’ name. In the book, Ortberg often encourages believers to take a step out onto the water, so to speak: to deliberately try to do things they think will glorify God, but that might only have a small chance of success without God’s help. Challenge God, in other words, to glorify Himself in your life. It was at the time of reading this book, and thinking on these things, that I ran across the competition – and so I entered.
I remember telling my mother that, if I won, I’d know that God had done it since I didn’t think I had much of a chance; I’m not exactly a seasoned self-publishing pro, and I make my own covers and do my own editing. Not to mention “Inspirational” is a category that contains multitudes. There was an entry fee to boot, which was insignificant in the face of the potential prize money but nothing to sneeze at otherwise. Still, the unfavorable circumstances seemed to make the step of faith even more necessary. I remember that I prayed: God, I don’t know what to do any more. I’ve tried everything. I know You can make something of this, if you want. But You’re the only one who can. I can’t make it happen.
Then I forgot about it entirely as the year wore on and I assumed that this door, like so many others, had closed.
I got the news I’d won on New Year’s Day. And it was such a fitting time for me to find out. I mean, the prize is pretty great, but what meant more to me is that God responded powerfully to a desperate prayer, validated and renewed my sense of calling, and reminded me of two distinct things:
- My calling is my calling is my calling, and God has given it to me. He is not in the business of deliberately hurting His children by not letting them do the work He has given or by not letting them use the gifts He has given or by not letting them fulfill the call He has given. He has a purpose for me. And for you.
- God wants to be in control of my calling. He wants to use it to accomplish His desires and His purpose, and I need to get out of the way with my plans and my ideas and my I-have-a-timeline-and-I-know-how-to-get-this-done, because God’s glory will be made most evident when I let God do the impossible, or even when I just let God do what He wants!
I say all of that to say this: anything that I can do by myself brings glory to me, not to God. Anything that I accomplish that I could not have done by myself, on the other hand, brings glory to God, and not to me. The same goes for you. Every now and then we should allow ourselves to “fall up”: to reach for high places and believe that, if God wants to lift us up to reach them up for His glory, He will.
In the end, all my questioning and sorrow over writing came down to this: I was confused because I kept doing everything within my power and I kept making plans and I knew what the results should be and yet what I wanted to happen didn’t happen. My hopes and my dreams and all my thoughts depended on me and everything that I could do, but somehow I blamed God for not answering them when I never even gave Him a chance to show me what He wanted to do – what He could do when I let go of “me” and “mine” and “I.”
So, hey: enter the contest you don’t think you’ll win. Apply for the job even if you don’t have the relevant ten years of experience required. Jump at the ministry opportunity that seems a little too big for you. Do the thing that you really want to do that nonetheless scares you, just a little. Ask yourself “Wouldn’t it be crazy-cool if God just made this happen for His glory?” and then give Him the chance to do it. Live as the steward of God’s great gifts that you are, and feel confident in your call and purpose.
We all have dreams for ourselves. But we rarely inquire about what God’s dreams are for us. It is my hope that, after this blessing, I start to explore more of the second and concern myself less with the first. That’s my prayer for you, too.
Keep going. Keep striving. Keep moving forward. And let God dream big for you.
P.S. To those of you purchased The Hunger Blessing online, or who participated in the study when it ran here – thank you. Truly.