By Lauren Flake
Writing has been a huge part of my ministry and a tremendous source of joy in my life for many years. With what felt like clear direction from God each step of the way, I published my first book last year and naturally held on to dreams of publishing more.
Yet despite all my eager expectation, in recent months God pushed “pause” on my writing career in a major way. Grief, caregiving challenges, and anxiety pushed me into a painful state of paralysis. Except for tiny spurts here and there for specific writing assignments, I was unable to exercise what I have for so long—and so pridefully—held up as my most God-appointed gift and calling. And it hurts.
As the Little Mermaid so eloquently asks the Sea Witch, “But without my voice, how can I…?”
Satan tells me almost daily that I have nothing to offer if I’m not producing valuable content. Much like Ursula instructs Ariel, he tells me to compensate for my lack of words with my “looks,” my “pretty face.” (“And don’t underestimate the importance of body language!”) He appeals to my deep-seated vanity and deceives me into thinking that focusing my time on marketing and branding can fill the void left by my absent writing. Just keep performing, he says.
But what if writing and building a platform is not my greatest gift and calling after all? What if my greatest gift and ministry is perseverance—learning to stay the course and keep my eyes fixed on Jesus in the midst of struggle? What if writing is simply one way to share that story, not a calling in and of itself? What if God is simply asking me to keep showing up for my own life right now, no matter how hard things become, believing that eventually whatever writing he wants me to do will follow?
God doesn’t need my blog or my social media presence to help people find Jesus. And he certainly doesn’t need my book sales or my online following. He can use them for his glory, of course, but even more, he wants me to be present in my own life.
“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33 ESV).
In devoting quality time, which is my love language, to my readers first instead of to God first, I have deprived myself of a deeper intimacy with my Savior. I know he yearns for me to seek him first each day, yet even in my quiet times I can sometimes catch myself performing for an audience instead of listening for his voice. (“Look what verse I Bible journaled today, Instagram.”)
I hate to admit that I have also often traded quality time with family and friends for quality time with my computer and my smartphone. No wonder so many of my real-life relationships feel difficult and distant these days. They’ve been neglected for too long for the sake of chasing my big dreams on a public stage.
Through my hiatus from performance, God is working to drive out my spirit of fear, pride, and perfectionism and replace it with one of peace, humility, and patience. And it hurts. Pruning always hurts. It just does. Removing things that have been a part of us for a lifetime, even ones that distance us from God, is painful.
Must he take away all my pride? Can’t he leave just a little bit for my comfort? Nope, he’s cutting it all away. But the hope, spiritual maturity, forgiveness, and freedom we can fully embrace through God’s perpetual pruning is greater than any suffering we could experience to get there.
He simply asks us to keep trusting him through the pain.
Lauren Flake writes about her journey as a wife, mom to two little girls and Alzheimer’s daughter in her native Austin, Texas, at For the Love of Dixie. Her first book, Where Did My Sweet Grandma Go? was published in 2016. She thrives on green tea, Tex-Mex and all things turquoise.
Photograph © Bethany Beams, used with permission