Monday, February 26, 2007

JK: Commitment

For those of you interested in my last month’s contribution about titles…we’ve decided on one for my book. I do thank those of you who sent me emails about possible titles. That was cool!

What we’ve chosen is “A Mending at the Edge.” I like it. In part because it is a book about a woman’s healing, her coming to terms with the mistakes of her past while moving forward. I’m using Acts 26:2 in the King James version where Paul says “I think myself happy…”

I love the idea that we can change how we feel, that we can think our way into a better, more hopeful place. Mending involves that kind of re-thinking, pulling threads across the tears and making something whole again. I like the idea of an edge as well because this woman was at the edge of her religious colony. She didn’t always see eye to eye with the leader and yet she found herself needing the security and comfort that the colony provided to a woman with four children in the 1860s whose husband had abused her. She was marginalized in some ways, at the edge.

But in backwaters, it’s the edge that promises the most intriguing bits of flora and fauna. Rich life goes on at the edge of things and contributes greatly to the health of the entire river. I like the idea that this woman will find her way toward spiritual health and in so doing, she will bring good things to the rest of the colony as they make their way.

There are quilts in the story too, so mending and having a tight, well-stitched edge, just stands for quality, doesn’t it? And perseverance. So thanks for your offers of titles. I think this one says what I want. We’ll how readers feel after they get the book in 2008! You won’t even remember we had this conversation by then!

Unlike many of you, I began writing for other people to read later in life. My first book appeared on bookshelves the day before I turned 45. As a child I wrote wretched little poems. In school, I heard teachers praise my use of words and story-telling. At sixteen, I submitted an essay to our state-wide Church sponsored contest titled “What Jesus Means to Me.” It was my first award for writing.

But I still didn’t listen to God’s voice. I resisted, not sure that doing something I loved could really be the way God called one into service. I had a profession as a clinical social worker. Helping people with wounded spirits by listening to their words seemed like worthy work.

But I deceived myself. I was listening -- just to other voices. I call them the harpies. You’ll remember them as those shrouded creatures from Greek tragedies who run across the stage announcing disasters. Whenever I’d think about writing, they’d be sitting behind me saying: “You think you have a gift? What makes you think you have anything worthy to say? Do you really think people will give up cleaning their toilets for an hour to read this drivel?”

But finally a story found me and would not let me go. To write it, I had to put Duct Tape on the harpies. I didn’t know if it would get published or not, but I committed to writing it down.
Commitment is a word derived from the ancient banking industry. It meant “to make a deposit against which one can later draw.” I made a commitment to be at the computer to write by 5:00 AM every morning, to enter and live that story and to trust God for the rest. That story went on to win a couple of awards but it was keeping that commitment that blessed me most.

As Christian writers, it isn’t our job to write the great American novel. It isn’t our job to get Oprah to know our names. It’s our task to show up, to assume the position of a writer and to tell the stories that we’ve been given the best way we know how and to trust that we’re not alone in the telling.

That last is the most important I think, for those of us who tell stories with a Christian’s heart. Madeleine L’Engle in her book Walking on Water, reminds us that when we create, we co-create with Spirit, with God, with Christ’s voice in our ears; and we co-create with readers who bring their lives and needs and loves to what we’ve written.

Listening comes first but then we’re asked to commit, to “simply say yes or no” to that voice (Matthew 5:37 God’s Word). We’re asked to step out onto a cloud of faith believing we won’t fall through. We can trust that Christ’s spirit and a reader’s heart will transform our stories and make them greater than they otherwise might be.

Jane Kirkpatrick author of A Land of Sheltered Promise


At 7:41 AM, Blogger Kristy Dykes said...

What a great post, Jane! Thanks so much.

"...Christ’s spirit and a reader’s heart will transform our stories and make them greater than they otherwise might be."

K: Powerful statement! It resonated with me. "Oh, Lord," I pray, "make it so for my stories."

At 8:35 PM, Blogger C.J. Darlington said...

Jane, thank you for this encouraging post. It's something I needed to hear.

At 10:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jane, I feel like you've read my journals. Social work... not listening to awards and verbal plaudits when young... feeling my messages may be unimportant.... You have described me.
I celebrate you for stepping onto and following the path God has for you. I am working to become committed, like you. Thank you.


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