Monday, July 27, 2015

At the Edge of Surrender

Last week I attended the SpeakUp Conference for Christian speakers/writers. It was a good experience. Several women there encouraged me.What sticks out most, though, are those moments where I was able to encourage others. It was probably a little short-sighted of me, but somehow I didn't go expecting to minister – even though it was a conference on improving our ministries. And... I probably learned as much about myself as I did writing.

During the first evening the writers each shared a small piece of writing for critique in a small group – basically the first page that an acquisition editor/publishing house would see and make a quick judgment on. That's kind of scary. Okay, more than kind of.  You're really putting yourself out there. As I walked away, though, I was actually feeling pretty good about how it went. I'd gotten good feedback, some tears, and one woman who commented on an example I'd made and exclaimed she'd never thought about it that way – it was like the Holy Spirit punched her in the gut. That's a pretty good night for a writer. You know what you said connected with and impacted someone. Your words made a difference.

Shortly after that, I checked into the hotel where several of us were staying. The manager asked me what the conference was about. Feeling slightly awkward, I answered, "Depending on what you're doing, making us better speakers or better writers." I figured that would be the end of it, but he then asked, "What are you doing?" Oh. Wow. I'm going to have to actually say it out loud! There was no way to avoid it, so I hesitantly answered, "Writing." The next question, though, really threw me for a loop. He asked, "What are you writing about?" I know that question shouldn't have surprised me, but it did. I hadn't even considered the possibility of someone asking what I was writing about. I mean, in truth, I wouldn't have even said I was writing... I was just thinking about writing – and I don't even feel comfortable admitting that! It took a minute before I answered with a quiet, "Umm... probably childhood sexual abuse." His eyes showed surprise as he asked, "From what perspective?" Gulp. Did he seriously just ask that? "Survivor." He didn't even flinch as he went on to tell me about his involvement in helping children trafficked from Africa. I nodded in understanding and relief. I was glad that the first time I'd admitted my desire to write –  especially on such a tough subject –  had gone so well. No awkward silence. Just a common ground. Cool.

The next morning at the conference I chose a seat at a table that initially had only one other woman. I left an empty chair between us. We made small talk for a moment, asking which track the other was on. Then she asked me what I was writing about. My hesitation was smaller this time. I think God had used the conversation the night before to prepare me. I drew in a breath and quietly answered again, "Probably childhood sexual abuse." Her eyes widened as she blinked and made a small, nearly undetectable gasp. I prepared myself for the sympathy/horror I thought I saw in her eyes. Her first words, though, were "My grandson...." Actually, those were her only words for a moment as her eyes watered and words failed her. I immediately moved to take the seat between us, touching her arm and encouraging her to go on. While her grandson's story was different from mine, it was surprisingly similar. We shared a God-ordained moment in which two lives intersected briefly but deeply. I left the conference with names to pray over, and the confidence from knowing I was where I was supposed to be in that moment of time. It's an amazing thing to be a part of a God-orchestrated moment.

Over the course of the weekend others encouraged me. Several affirmed that my story was needed. Others gave me contacts and resources. So it was good... affirming... encouraging. In the midst of that, though, I think I heard another message from an unspoken voice. One that said the time isn't right yet. One that said I wasn't ready.

What I began to understand is that I'm still at a spot where it's "my story." I'm writing for the right reasons – my aim is to encourage others; to shed light and open a door. I'm not writing to vent, or to gain retribution or to justify myself or to say "look at me." I truly want to help others to break out of their silence and find freedom from shame. I want to touch women like that grandmother at my table and let them know they are not alone. And if I were writing from a secular perspective, I think I could say I was in a good place with good motive to write and do just that. But I'm not writing from a secular perspective. And there's the problem. I haven't let it be His story yet. It's still my story. As I'm healing I tend to think about what I need to do to make progress.  I tend to ask questions like "How do I....?" Yes, I can see God in it at times and I know He's there. But if I'm honest, I have to admit that I'm not very good at inviting Him in. I tend to try to do it on my own power. And until I drop those walls and wave the white flag of surrender, it's not His story. It's still mine. And as long as it's mine, it's not mine to tell. It may bring encouragement to someone. It may let others know they are not alone in their experience. But it won't point them to the One who is always there; who will never leave them alone. When it's really His story, not mine... then it will be time.

Does that mean I won't still write? You know me better than that, don't you? Writing is how I process. I have to write.  And I feel called to be authentic – to be real – so I'll keep sharing it here. But until I know that it's truly His story, not mine; that it will bring eternal encouragement, not just temporary... then this is it. This little piece of cyberspace. My place to be authentic; to admit it's not all tied up with a bow. My place to be held accountable, even – to admit I'm struggling and I know I'm not where I need to be; to let you in and give you permission to call me out or to check in with me. Because once it's out there... I become more real not only to you, but it becomes more real to me, too.

So... Hi, I'm Jenn... and I'm way too independent for my own good. I need to surrender.  How about you?


Note: The BlogHop below consists of blog entries from other SpeakUp Attendees....