Guest post by Erin Taylor Young
Erin Taylor Young has a remarkable gift for making her readers laugh out loud even as she’s delivering hard truths about living a life of faith. Her down-to-earth writing style invites readers into the books that God has given her and sends them away refreshed and the assured that we’re not in this gig alone. Her first humorous nonfiction, Surviving Henry: Adventures in Loving a Canine Catastrophe, will release August 5, 2014. Which just happens to be my (Karen Ball’s) birthday. Now that’s a loyal client! Erin lives in the Southwest with her husband, their two sons, and the infamous—and, against all odds, still alive–Henry.
I love my husband. Really I do. But there are occasions I’m tempted to take a sharp, pointy pencil and stab him somewhere non-fatal. Especially when I’m torqued over my anemic word count, frustrated by a recent edit, or discouraged by yet another rejection.
I’m venting why, why, WHY, and my hubby turns into a fixer. Worse, he’s a fixer with a PhD, so when he tells me exactly what’s going on inside me and how to change it—apparently it’s some stupid cycle between my situation, my brain, and my emotions—he’s right. I hate that.
Can I not just have five minutes to wallow?
Sometimes that’s exactly what we need. You know, like a good mud bath. People pay money for that.
Then again, people also get sucked into mud bogs and are never seen again.
The difference is in knowing what you’re doing in the mud and how to get out when it’s time. Which means understanding that cycle between situation, brain, and emotion is actually helpful. I’ll give you the elevator pitch though, so your eyes don’t glaze over.
We have goals. We try to achieve them. We fail.
Then we feel rotten because the mismatch between our goals and our ability to achieve them creates frustration. This is perfectly normal, and in fact a GOOD THING because it compels us to adjust our methods or our goals, i.e. get a grip on reality.
Sometimes it’s easy. Like that six-figure book contract with an eighty-city tour? Give it up.
Sometimes adjusting our goals is hard, because what if we did everything right? We wrote a great book, we’d be giddy over a puny contract, and the manuscript went to pub board at three houses. Then got rejected.
Our perfectly normal frustration makes us wrack our brains to figure out what we could’ve done differently, or what we can change now. But there’s nothing. So our brains keep cycling until we exhaust ourselves straight into discouragement.
And that, my friends, is a bog we can drown in.
Yet there are things we can change, and our why, why, WHY questions can actually help us find them.
If God is calling me to a writing career, why did I get rejected again?
No matter how much I claim to be prepared for rejection, if I’m asking why it happened, my little heart wasn’t ready to go there. I’ve just uncovered an expectation that needs to change, so I have to ask myself a new question. Am I willing to be rejected a hundred times without good reason until God deems my umpteenth try to be accepted?
Sounds depressing when I put it that way. But if my expectation is that I’ll be rejected until the one day that maybe I won’t be, then I can focus on the greater issue: obedience. God is calling me to be faithful to the task, without regard to public success. Changing my goal to obedience breaks the cycle of frustration and discouragement. I can even find joy in rejection because it means I’m moving forward, doing my job.
If God gave me a gift for writing, why is it so hard?
Um, right, somewhere I got the idea that using my gifts would be easy. Another hidden expectation that needs to die. A better question is am I willing to wrestle with this task, to work harder and then harder yet, because is there one person in the Bible who had a God-given task that was a cakewalk?
What if instead I expect a stinking hard task and acknowledge my weakness? Then I can focus on a greater goal—to bring glory to God. Because I know, and so will the world, that it’s only by his power, his purpose, and his grace that I’m able to do impossible things. Actually sounds exciting, right?
Why did that last edit/critique/contest entry have to be so humiliating?
Well ouch. No one should expect to be humiliated. But I can’t expect improving my writing to be simple either. Growth is not a warm fuzzy. The real question is am I willing to endure, to stretch, to press on no matter how painful?
We all love stories where tormented characters struggle their way through an epic journey to victory. The more times they’re crushed and still rise up, the more we cheer.
From the sidelines.
Where we don’t actually have to be that character…
Well that’s just boring.
What if we really are that character, living out the story God has for us? We can expect a knock-down, drag-out, good-versus-evil fight. We can expect an enemy who keeps shoving us into bogs. We can expect to fall, hurt, and be discouraged.
But the difference between discouragement and hope is the choice we make to hang onto the best expectation yet:
God. Is. With. Us.
So what can stand against us?
I’m not saying we’re all going to be published. I’m not saying we’ll all have a paying writing career. That’s not the point of our life story. The point is to rise up out of our bogs and do whatever task God calls us to because he makes us able. Because it brings him glory. Because it’s what we’re made to do.
And in all these things, we can expect to triumph.
Because that’s the way God wrote the story.
Here is the book trailer Erin created for the new book Surviving Henry: