Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Accepting God's Challenges

I'm a semi-professional writer in real life with a tidy handful of paid publications under my belt--mostly horror and dark fantasy short stories--but in recent months I've been feeling the call to write something altogether different. Actually, calling it "a call" is being generous, unless "the Call" involves occasional divine whacks over the head. It's more like this:

Me: Ooh, I just had this idea for a novel, but... God, I can't write stuff like that, I have no experience...
God: *points*
Me: Yeah, but... listen, that's a LOT of research you're asking of me, and we're talking, like, years of notes and writing and revising and actually talking to professors and you know I'm anti-social...
God: *points*
Me: But other people have done it already...
God: *points*
Me: There's no money in it!
God: *points*
God: *points*
Me: Sigh. Fine. *slinks off to the computer*

So, I'm trying hard to listen and trust that He knows what He's doing. On that note, if anyone has any book recs about the historical St. Peter, and the history and culture of his time period, please feel free to send them my way. I have quite a few already, but I'm always on the lookout for more.
I like that: God: *points*

I know someone else (hi Joanette!) who also is stepping out in faith in a big way. She would have to change her entire life to take up God's challenge. She's been "called" if you like via a longing that has been there since childhood but that she always thought was too unachievable. (No, we're not talking about joining an order, but we are talking about vocation.) I mean, she'd have to move. Far away. Take up a different way of life for several years. From our conversations the path does seem clearly marked for this challenge to be undertaken at this time. She's been prepped. She's been put in the right place to take advantage of it. So she's taken the first steps. She's ready. Excited. Scared. But most of all -- ready.

I recently read something by St. Teresa of Avila which applies to this. Many of you know that she was a lady who plunged ahead doing lots of God's challenges, despite huge odds against her. I told Joanette I'd send it to her but I see no reason not to share it with everyone in the process.
I would not hesitate to do anything the Beloved [God] asks, regardless of its difficulty. Experience has taught me that when I accept a challenge for his sake, a gnawing doubt regarding my ability to perform will bless me. When the work is finished, the reward is high satisfaction This is a reward we receive her and now rather than in heaven.

The only ones who can understand what I am saying are those who have also tasted these sweet pleasures. I have been through this many times.

Sometimes an assignment has far-reaching implications. In such cases, I will give you my best advice: If you are inspired to take on a worthy project, don't hesitate. Have no fear that you may not be able to accomplish it. Turn yourself over to God. Take yourself out of it. You need not be afraid you can't do the job. God can do all things.
St. Teresa of Avila, excerpt in A Little Daily Wisdom
Those goals are individual to us. They can have a big impact on others, no doubt about it. But, they are tuned to what we need at that particular time.

I have a friend who several years ago faced the challenge of stopping home schooling, enrolling all their children in public school, and entering the work force. Terrifying at the time, but it has enriched every community that their family has touched.

I have another friend who recently began homeschooling which brings challenges which would make me quail before them. I know that it had to cause, at the least, great trepidation. However, I have no doubt that when I hear the long term results, they will show a story which my friend couldn't have predicted either.

If we are persistent and faithful, God's challenges yield results which may surprise us, which may succeed or fail, and which may require constant attempts to fulfill. Our vision may be too small or too big or we may try in completely the wrong way. Through all this we must take the huge risk of making a full commitment of ourselves. I think that is what God wants above all. It is in the doing that we learn, whether it comes off the way we think it should or not.

Been there. Done that. Surprise, surprise. Doesn't everything around here wind up being about me?

Of course it doesn't end at that because God is all about the organic process, so to speak. He's got that bigger view of working with us and through us ... and one challenge just isn't gonna cut it in achieving his goal. Onward and upward is the way that works.

So, I've got my own new challenge that I realized was being pushed in my face a few months ago. I've been doing my best to avoid it, ignore it, pretend I couldn't do it, and so on. You know the drill, right? As a recent correspondent wrote to me:
My relationship with God so often feels like an extremely patient father dealing with a recalcitrant three year old. I keep kicking, yelling, and throwing myself boneless on the ground, and he keeps patiently picking me up, dusting me off, and guiding me back into place. The funny thing, though: When I stop fighting him and actually -look- at what it is he wants me to do--sure, it's going to be difficult, but it's also something I'm uniquely suited for.
The fact is, I know God is going to do something with me while I am working on this challenge. Slowly, imperceptibly perhaps. But if he's made it this clear, then who am I to say no? And with that acceptance comes a certain amount of relief, even as I prepare for difficult, challenging work along the way.

Naturally, I read something just this morning that St. Teresa said about this too.
I have learned, through experience as well as reading, that an obedient soul receives much blessing. Through obedience, we advance in virtue and gain humility. Obedience prevents us from worrying about straying from the path to heaven.

We also gain a precious spiritual relaxation. Once we completely resign ourselves to the practice of holy obedience, surrendering our thoughts and not seeking any other opinion than our confessor or superior, the devil will stop harassing us. Our restless fidgeting, which makes us eager to do what we desire even if it is unreasonable, ceases.


I will add that one thing I am already struggling with is the desire to be great at what I'm doing, the first time out of the gate. This particular challenge I'm working on has no goal, no deadline, and no expectations set by anyone ... except by me. I am the only judge of it at this point anyway. And yet, despite the knowledge that I have a long way to go, just in the doing of this I am finding joy, excitement, and a more interesting life. If that isn't positive feedback, then I don't know what is.

I keep reminding myself that what counts here is persistence, patience, and adherence to my goal.

I was helped quite a bit by the fact that Tom chose a particularly perfect video to show at our weekly creativity meeting this morning. It is The Secret Truth About Executing Great Ideas from 99%. There's nothing about faith there. But there is everything about risk-taking, failure, persistence, and just doing it. You may find it helpful too.


  1. Great post and quote from Teresa.

    As always, you are in my prayers.

  2. Tante Léonie2/23/11, 1:14 PM

    That anonymous was me -- sorry about that!

  3. Now, of course, we all want to know what that challenge is.

    Not that it's any of our business, of course. :-)

  4. That was a beautiful post and just what I needed to read. I had intended to go straight to bed and say my prayers but I needed one last internet fix and came here, seeking inspiration, and I found it. That was very timely for me and what I am going through (yep, me me me!) But God bless you for writing it. You are very gifted.

  5. Will ... I suppose if all goes well you will eventually hear about it. Probably even if all does NOT go well, because you know I love to share the bad with the good. However, for now it must remain my little secret. In a year or two or three (?) all may be revealed. :-D

    cgnuje ... I really appreciate your feedback because a lot of the time I write these and then feel as if I am boring everyone to tears by going on and on and on about me, me, me (ha!). But as long as God's using it somehow, then I'll just keep on keeping on. :-)