“You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.”
— Mark Twain
It’s probably time for an update.
A lot has been happening around here. The end of the school year kept me hopping for a couple of weeks. Not only were we swamped with school programs, field trips, and end-of-year parties, but we also had to fit in a fundraiser, an award ceremony for my AHG troop, and a birthday party.
And the garden still languishes.
I’m digging out, slowly but surely. And it feels like it will probably just always be that way, at least until I can finally let go of some of my volunteer duties.
But that’s not the most significant update, nor is it the reason I was prompted to finally write a blog post.
The biggest update I have to share is . . .
I put my books back on Amazon about a week or so ago.
I’m still not sure how I feel about that.
And this is where I don’t know what to say next.
[An hour later . . . .]
I’m ambivalent and anxious and stuck. I have the books up there, and with that act comes the implicit promise of at least a sequel for the novel. But when I try to re-read the novel, I am only struck by how amateurish and poorly written it is. I can only hear the whispers of negative reviews and the criticisms of readers past and future who think the story is too dull, too traditional, too . . .
[fill in the blank]
It’s hard for me to remember that self-flagellation is a form of pride. This has dawned on me before. Many of us–especially women, I’ve noticed–mistakenly equate humility with self-deprecation, scolding, reminding ourselves and others of all the things were bad at, etc. We somehow mistakenly got the idea that humility means thinking less of ourselves.
As the great C. S. Lewis reminds us:
“True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”
So I stand again at the gate of pride, beating myself bloody over perceived mistakes, imperfections, flaws, etc. that may or may not even be in my work. And it is pride, because yesterday, I found myself in a spiral of “this sucks–I hate this–my work is hideous–who would like this” and on and on.
That’s not thinking of myself less. Indeed, it’s thinking of myself more.
My eyes were on the wrong place. Once again, they were back on me–my work, my writing, my stories. Even my pronouns are wrong.
Where should my eyes and heart be?
On Jesus, the great Author and Storyteller Who asked me to write these stories in the first place.
I have no idea what He wants to do with this stuff. Maybe it’s nothing. Maybe the entire point of having my stories out there is to grow me for some future task. Maybe this is just about building my obedience muscle.
But the point is, that’s not up to me. That’s up to Him.
I ran across this Mark Twain quote earlier: “You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.”
My imagination was out of focus yesterday. Not my creativity–not my ability to put words together or create worlds or envision what happens next.
No, what was out of focus was my perspective on Who I belong to, Who owns my talent, and Who I’m writing for in the first place.
Dictionary.com says that imagination is “the faculty of imagining, or of forming mental images or concepts of what is not actually present to the senses.”
It’s not my creativity that was out of whack. It was my imagination–my ability to form a mental image or concept of my Heavenly Father’s delight in my obedience, or of the moment when He says “well done, good and faithful servant,” or of the glory of Heaven itself. My imagination was conjuring mental images and concepts that were not heavenly, but earthly–and more than earthly, they were so earth-bound that they kept me from doing what God has asked me to do.
That’s pride. And more than pride, that’s allowing the Enemy to hijack my usefulness and my joy and my strength.
I won’t give him that power any longer.
And so when my imagination is out of focus, I can’t trust my eyes. Yesterday, my eyes were telling me that my work was amateurish, unsophisticated, boring, ugly, and all the rest.
But if my imagination had been properly focused, my eyes might have said, “yes, it’s imperfect, but that’s okay. Some of the imperfections can be fixed. Some can’t. Some make it more beautiful. Some are just subjective. The point is, you wrote the story you were supposed to write. And whether you were obedient then or not, you’re being obedient now. That’s the point. That’s what counts.”
This is not a clean, tidy, perfect journey, but then, what journey is? And isn’t that the point of my stories–that none of us have perfect journeys? That redemption is a messy, uncomfortable, beautiful process of fits and starts and loss and gain? That sanctification doesn’t happen overnight?
Well, most of you probably don’t know the point of my stories. But let me tell you that yes, that’s pretty much the point of most of my stories.
I have no time at all to devote to writing or editing fiction right now, and yet, here I am–staring down the gaping maw of a sequel that I promised years ago, a sequel that, apparently, a dozen or twenty people still want to read.
So I take a deep breath, and I repeat to myself the verse that took me through the last year as a first-year Troop Coordinator: “And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10, NASB)
Till next we meet . . .