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August 15, 2017

Everything You Didn’t Want to Know about Writing and Selling Books

August 15, 2017

A Voice Wavering

August 15, 2017
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I wanted to be big, real. Heard.

— Lucinda J. Miller, Anything But Simple

I don’t know what it is in me that drives me to want to be heard.

Once upon a time, a friend told me that she had detected a repressed desire of mine—repressed because I am a woman, and a Mennonite. You practically shout in your public and private writings, ‘I want to preach!’ she wrote. Makes me want to scream, ‘Yes, you can!’ Preaching oozes from your fingertips.

I had never considered preaching in my life—ridiculous notion!—and I tried to gently dispossess her of it while still honoring her kind intent. I told her that yes, I did want to preach—not from behind a pulpit, but with godly actions and powerful written words.

Still, I think she must have detected some powerful force in me I was not fully aware of at that time: the desire to be heard, to have a voice in the world. To influence.

I take this desire, hold it out in front of me. It’s an odd-looking thing, to me, anyway. No one in my immediate family has this same drive, at least not in the same way. My dad is a preacher, sure, but you can barely drag him out of the four cracked cream walls of our own church building to preach in other places. Some of my siblings are very involved in kids’ ministry, and I know they seek to influence those kids toward truth—but I doubt if they have ever considered or desired to impact the thought community at large. We are all of us the congenial type, people pleasers. Quick to blend in, to give compliments. Pretty certain to keep negative opinions to ourselves. We are more likely to apologize for the inconvenience of our existence than to proclaim our ideas worthy of attention.

I run my eyes up and down the length of this thing—this desire for influence—to assess it.

Selfishness? I don’t think so. Not more so than any of my other natural desires. Like wanting to be loved. Wanting to learn. Wanting food and clothes and comfort and esteem.

I care about things. I care very deeply. And because I care, and because I am a communicator, it is only natural for me to wish to speak.

Is there ego involved? Maybe. Sometimes. But mostly not. Speaking—and by speaking I mean writing—takes great courage on my part, because I open myself not only to approbation but to criticism. And criticism is so scary and so real, it never fails to drain my body of energy and sap the life out of my day. It takes humility to risk that, to risk making mistakes. To go forward even when you realize you are not the smartest, the wisest, or the best.

And there is another scary thing this desire to be heard brings me: responsibility.

Asher Witmer touches on the scary of responsibility in his blog post: Two Deadly Temptations Young Influencers Fail to See. “I don’t believe we should wait until we have arrived before we start saying what is on our hearts,” he writes. “If [Satan] can make sure potential teachers feel they need to have it all together before taking the platform, then those who would dare to say something strictly born of faith and innocent observation will be too afraid to.”

He has more wisdom for influencers in the article—that’s all of us in one way or another, and all of it struck home with me—but right now I want to talk about that scary responsibility part.

The day before yesterday my friend asked me, in an email conversation, what I thought about a certain article on a certain news story. And I tried to formulate an answer to a subject I admittedly knew very little about. But I said something. Because she asked.

And it was the wrong thing. “Your response is mean spirited, anti factual, narrow minded, and un-American,” she wrote yesterday morning. “Such a concept of God is surely grounds to reject him…And thinking in this manner is one reason Christianity has disappeared in Europe and is slowly fading here. It’s cruel. It’s bigoted. It’s limited and constricts humanity.”

So I spent most of yesterday crying and moping, feeling judged and ill-used and angry at the same time I felt hurt and small and…culpable.

I want so badly to be a Christian. The kind of Christian people look at and say, “That person is like Jesus.” I don’t think there is anything in the world that could hurt me more than being told my beliefs are a smear in the face of the concept of a loving God. That I am a speaker who turns people away from Jesus rather than toward Him.

Speaking makes one so vulnerable, so very vulnerable, to attack.

And speaking makes one responsible, so very responsible, for the influence one yields.

So what if I formulate an opinion and believe it strongly and promote it? And what if I’m just dead wrong? And I hurt people, or mislead them?

And what if I do not form strong opinions on the the grounds that I might be wrong…and what if a strong stand is exactly what is needed? What if truth and righteousness are weakened and lost because I, among others, have not been willing to speak? What if people die because I did not step forward to warn them of the things that I know?

I do not have any answers in today’s blog posts. Just questions.

Maybe you have some insight.

32 comments

  1. You are such a gifted writer.
    ” We are more likely to apologize for the inconvenience of our existence than to proclaim our ideas worthy of attention….” Made me laugh.

    It’s uncanny how much you put my feelings into words.

    I wish I had time to comment more, but I just want you to know how much I love this post and I’ll be thinking about it today. I might be back, but no promises.

    1. Shilah, my email is lucinda[at]lucindajmiller[dot]com. I will be glad to mail you an autographed copy. You can also just order from Amazon if that’s easier for you.

  2. Don’t forget while God is a loving he is also just! You are very sensitive. Don’t allow other’s thoughts and opinions weigh you down – Live n Learn;) The Race – Life’s Greatest Lesson is a book/poem you would probably find very encouraging. (It can be bought on Ebay or Amazon).
    “Only one life, ’twill soon be past
    Only what’s done for Christ will last”. No one has ever been perfect except Christ. Keep just being Lucy;)

    1. Thank you! I appreciate that encouragement. And I added “The Race” to my Amazon cart for the next time I buy. 🙂

  3. “To go forward even when you realize you’re not the smartest, wisest, or best.” This is truth!! And this is my take-away for today. Thanks for the reminder!

  4. Oh my 🙁 my heart goes out to you !!!! This post felt so raw and vulnerable…Years ago I used to write blog posts that were more ‘opinionated’ where I revealed a lot more ‘raw emotion’ like this post, which would leave me open to all kinds of responses – positive and often negative. So over time I’ve censored myself. I’ll re-read draft posts… edit… delete 🙁 sad but true. Sometimes though the old fiery Linda, gets on her soap box and just goes for it !!!!, then I shut my eyes and wait for the fall out lol. We will always offend someone. I have a small circle of friends now, because I am walking the narrow path and seek to please just one – the Lord. I too feel a need to be heard…ahhhh blogging 🙂 I love your posts !!!! your so real, it almost hurts (in a good way) ~ bless you.

    1. “shut my eyes and wait for the fallout.” 🙂 I think that describes my feelings at times exactly. Bless you, too. It feels good to know someone all the way over in New Zealand who is seeking to please the Lord.

  5. I have lots of FEELINGS, reading this.
    Our women’s Sunday school class has been doing a study of spiritual gifts, which often show up outside, and in contrast to, natural or expected giftings. So I wonder if that’s what’s going on with you, with this burden and passion to speak.
    I am troubled by the response to your email in response to your friend’s question. Of course I don’t know the whole story, but it seems she set you up and then zapped you, kind of like my brothers would set a tin can on a fence post and then shoot it down. She didn’t want an honest answer from you. She wanted you to fit an image. And that brings me to one of the terrible pitfalls of writing:
    1. Someone reads your work and they like you! They connect! This is wonderful.
    2. They feel like they know you, so they feel you must be just like them. They build on this image in their minds.
    3. They set up a situation where you will meet or communicate.
    4. They bring up a favorite subject, knowing you’ll agree with them.
    5. You don’t agree with them.
    6. “What?? How COULD you?? This is not who you said you were!! I am so disappointed in you!!!”
    7. The friendship ends.
    I’ve been there. It’s so hard. It happens no matter how honest you are in your writing.
    Hugs from me.

      1. Dorcas, your reply gives ME lots of feelings. Somehow I never once classified this particular passion as a spiritual gift. It’s appeared to me more as an anomaly, a knot-like projection on my arm that no one else has and that looks rather peculiar. A failing more than a gift, which hopefully God could use, since that’s the kind of Person He is, but which He didn’t actually give me. Which sounds strange and completely illogical now that I say it out loud. 🙂 It’s just that claiming to have a spiritual gift seems so conceited somehow. As though I think I have a direct line to God that other people don’t have. And I don’t feel that way. I am always worried about placing myself and my opinions in God’s lap and then claiming that the luci god is the One God. Anyway, thank you for your insight. It’s good to hear from authors who have gone before. And the tin can analogy did feel rather apt. 🙂

        1. Yes, a spiritual gift created into you by God. You’ve put my feelings into words so well and just recently I’ve been learning of spiritual gifts. God gives spiritual gifts to everyone so there really is no room for conceit, only humble acceptance and pressing into those gifts for the glory of God. Keep using your gifts!

  6. Remember that Jesus, too, was criticized; we cannot escape. We will never please everyone. I obsessively edit my words, yet I still face criticism. And someone once told me that sensitivity helps writers be creative, so that quality can be a plus–though sometimes it feels otherwise. May the Lord continue to bless your writing, and may He encourage your heart!

    1. I suppose sensitivity and creativity do go hand in hand, since sensitive people are by definition always busy sensing things. Like a rabbit with its ears to the wind, perceptive of nuances. 🙂

  7. Hi Luci,
    Thank you for sharing what is on your heart. I just wanted to say, “press on.” The prize is not at the beginning or in the middle but at the end. I don’t think we’ll see the results of the influence we had till we get to the end of the race. I can understand why your voice wavers, but please press on! Blessings

  8. another great article ! You mentioned about feeling like it would be conceit to say ” God gave me this gift”. Just remember that the Bible says ” he gives to whom he wills “. God is the only one who determines who gets what gifts and in what quantity. Which is probably why it mentions so much about not being jealous or resentful of others. So if He should give the gift of administration to a person who is nonverbal and spent their entire life in an institution for the mentally handicapped – who are we to argue ?? and if (horror of horrors ) He should actually give the gift of exhortation to a single Mennonite female -again who are we to protest ?? There is a huge difference between using your gift in the normal everyday of life and demanding to be behind the pulpit lecturing at people. Take it a step at a time and dont be afraid to say ” I am not going to compromise what the Bible says”.

    1. Interesting allusion to the gift of administration for a nonverbal person who spent their entire life in an institution. Sounds like a specific situation…yourself? I will keep endeavoring to listen to God, one day at a time. Whatever the spiritual gifts he’s given me, I don’t feel particularly competent in them. I know I lack a depth of abiding in Christ which I wish very much to grow into.

  9. I dont think anyone feels “competent in them”. I think thats one reason why God gives people different gifts so we can encourage each other and supplement what we have been given. If each of us had all the gifts we would have no need of others or to be a part of the Body of Christ. As for the “gift of administration”. What triggered that was working in a situation where most the individuals were nonverbal and at least half had spent most of their lives in institutions (meaning not with their biological family). I had found a blog written by a woman who was nonverbal and autistic- what fascinated me was her description of how she and others had a language but not with signs. That really challenged me. I discovered within the next week that much of their “behaviour” was actually their communicating with each other. THEN I reread the spiritual gifts chapter. and that sent my mind spinning- what if besides their communicating they were expressing the gifts that God had given them? What if -when one person was being “demanding” they were actually trying to organize people? What if instead of “having a tantrum” they were really angry because they saw staff as not being compassionate toward another person. I could go on but you get the idea. Ironically when I tried to share that with others it didn’t go over too well !!!! I think again because there was a jealousy and envy “how dare God give someone who I deem unworthy – a gift that is better than the one He gave me ?” So dont be afraid to use your gift ! and remember the veiling is not just a sign of submission but also a sign of authority !!

    1. Those are very interesting thoughts. In the area of spiritual gifts, one area of confusion for me is discerning between natural gifts, which everyone has, and spiritual gifts endowed by the Spirit. Dorcas mentioned in her comment the idea that spiritual gifts often show up unexpectedly and apart from natural talents. In the case of the people you mentioned, for example, wouldn’t a desire to organize be a personality trait as much as a spiritual gift?

      I would like to hear a fuller explanation on the covering being a symbol of authority if you have one to give. I follow your thought and it makes sense to me, with the reference to angels that follows, that the covering is a sign of spiritual authority. But I don’t think I have ever heard it expressed by others in quite those terms, or if I did, I didn’t absorb it. I have also heard quite a different explanation for that verse.

  10. I will try to keep this short !! the angels in heaven submitted to God even though they were perfect but they were not given complete access to knowing the future. Satan’s temptation to Eve was the promise of knowing the future even though he did not have the authority to do so. When as women we are converted that also includes (according to ! Cor 11) that gift – although it doesnt happen to everyone. As women we are to be a support to men in their leadership role. Wearing the veiling is a reminder that even though God may give me advance info on to what will happen in the future (either to me or to others) I WILL NOT USE THAT FOR MY OWN BENEFIT. I would liken it to an employee who is sent by the CEO to give info OR orders to another employee -the other employee can say “who are you to tell me what to do?” BUT if they have a “sign of authority” indicating that the CEO sent them then they can respond with “no problem you are doing this not on your own authority but in submission to the CEO”. The angels recognize that our relationship to men is the same as their relationship to God. Its also a sign to men that God has given us a gift to use for HIS purpose and that God has given us the authority to say or do whatever God asks of us. Which is why its vitally important that we have leadership who recognizes this so that we can go to them and say ” God has revealed this to me -what should I do ?” I get REALLY tired of hearing men use it as an excuse to “we dont want you to associate with “those” kind of people or we want to control what you do”. ok long enough -if you have more questions be glad to answer. But I would emphasize that how God does this can be different for each woman and that not everyone has it to the same extent.

    1. Thank you for explaining your thoughts, Shirley. One thing I do want to say is that I don’t believe our relationship with men should be likened to the angel’s relationship with God. The angels are inferior to God, for one thing. Their submission is mandatory, with dire consequences for disobedience. God’s authority over them is absolute and eternal. A better comparison for a woman’s submission is the submission of Christ to God the Father. Christ did this even though He himself is equal to God. He did so for a limited time for a specific purpose. A woman’s submission also is limited. She should not submit if doing so is ultimately harmful to herself or her family or in anyway goes against God. Her submission is specific to her husband, not to all men, and it is voluntary. She is equal, not inferior, to the one to whom she submits.

      1. In my focus on trying to be short I realize I wasn’t clear ! Thanks for showing where I was confusing and that helps in explaining things to people ! I did NOT mean that women are to wholesale submit in everything to men !!! But I do like your explanation- brought up some things I hadnt thought about . and I do agree with your points. I’m still trying to process it myself – the problem I have is trying to be clear and usually I end up making the waters even muddier !!

  11. “We are more likely to apologize for the inconvenience of our existence than to proclaim our ideas worthy of attention.” 🙂 Perhaps we wouldn’t be true Mennonite women if we weren’t wired this way? I think humility is key, and graciousness…with ourselves and with others, as God is gracious with us. Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

    1. Thank you for your thoughts. Humility and graciousness. Yes. And I hadn’t thought about that sentence being universally Mennonite…the thought made me laugh. Maybe there is some truth in that in a general cultural sense. Like how we as a culture don’t generally seek positions of leadership in the church. But there is a wide variety within that framework, and some people are definitely more confident of themselves and their ideas than others.

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