At the start of April, I submitted an entry to the Baptist Times Women’s Writing Competition. With the results now announced, I add my congratulations to the three winners: Holly Poulter, Lesley Hargreaves and Elizabeth Clarke.
Plucking up the courage to submit this entry was no mean feat. I’m new to throwing rocks in the pool of writing competitions, and the fact that I managed it is in no small part to the sterling support and encouragement I’ve had from friends; in particular those people who reviewed the piece before it was submitted.
I’m really looking forward to reading the winning entries in the Baptist Times next week; but until then, here is what I submitted. I hope you enjoy reading it.
Trust Begins at Forty
Hitting the age of forty last April was a personal milestone and one that, I admit, came with a degree of self-centred grieving for my thirties and the loss of my ‘youth’. But whereas my thirties were a time of emotional healing, working through problems such as depression, the first year of my forties has been exciting, hearing God calling me into a new season of my life; a season of growth. Quite why I was worrying about being forty now completely escapes me. I have a confidence that I never possessed before and I have much better hair. I should have trusted God an awful lot more.
Trust in God: It’s an easy thing to say, but a hard thing to learn how to do. I’m not the world’s best delegator, I’m tough on myself and everything I do has to be good enough. Of course, I knew that God wanted me to trust him in all areas of my life, but I’d done practically very little about that. If I trusted God with my life, could I be confident that he would be up to the job? I wasn’t sure and along I went, doing things in my own strength; keeping firmly to the shallows where I could be certain of my footing. It wasn’t until this new phase of my life opened up, that I understood that my lack of trust in God was a fundamental problem.
I have been writing all my life. As a child I wrote stories, before moving on to the obligatory diary-keeping as a teenager. Five years ago, with an underwhelming entry about a gurgling radiator, I took up blogging. I chronicle my daily life, comment on the news and puncture pomposity for the amusement of friends and assorted passers by. I’d harboured a vague desire to be a writer but had done nothing about it, believing that I was not good enough. Writing professionally was for better people than me.
Over the last five years, the desire to write has grown in intensity and over time I found myself shifting focus, to concentrate on writing about my everyday experience of being a
British Christian woman. I write because I enjoy it and at times because it feels like words are trying to burst out of my head. When I can’t get to a keyboard I scribble furiously in notebooks, emptying the things out of my head to make room for more.
Having previously been clueless about where God wanted me in his kingdom, I first started to sense this call around eighteen months ago. Finally, I’d been given my mission from God – I was being called to write! And then the crisis of confidence struck; my self-condemnation went into overdrive and it became abundantly clear that I didn’t know how to trust God about what he was asking me to do. He had given me this call, but the mere thought of taking my writing anywhere further than my blog, with its three hundred or so readers of all faiths and none, filled me with dread. I could not overcome my fear of stepping out in faith and trusting that God knew what he was doing. Happily tapping out six or seven thousand words a week on a blog was nothing, compared to the sheer terror of sitting down and writing just one thousand words for a competition! Amusing examples of procrastination littered my attempts, along with exasperated Facebook updates and the odd bout of tearfulness. I would never be good enough to do what God wanted me to do.
I was drawn to the example of Moses in Exodus 3. He too wanted someone else to go in his place; he didn’t feel good enough, but God sent him to the Egyptians anyway. ‘Ah but…’, my lack of self-confidence cried, ‘Moses was Moses, a giant of the faith and I am Rachel, a small, insignificant little comma and most likely in the wrong place’. Despite all his fear, Moses trusted God, did what he could do and God did the rest, bringing about something truly astonishing. Why was the same principle of trusting God so hard for me to apply to my own life?
So God tried another tactic. Not content with reminding me of the story of Moses and the burning bush, God sent me my own burning bush, or the modern equivalent; the ‘relentlessly catchy children’s song that takes up residence in your head’. Where the burning bush failed, the earworm song by John Hardwick about Proverbs 3 verse 5 did the trick. Finally, I understood. It was the ‘lean not on your own understanding’ bit that was the clincher. I was relying completely on my own understanding, of what made a good writer or a good article. I was being the judge and it wasn’t up to me to be the judge. The day after, this was reinforced by a another Minister who is currently attending our church (and incidentally also a writer). He said that if it’s of God, then it wasn’t up to me to be the judge of what I was writing. It couldn’t have been clearer. Not trusting God with the talent I’d been given – however small it may be – was not being obedient to his plan for my life. To be obedient to God I must trust in him completely and stop being self-critical.
So the time for paddling in the shallows has ended. It’s time to push out into deeper water, where I can’t touch the bottom and am reliant on God for support and direction. I don’t know where my writing will take me or how far it will go; but from the moment I hit the ‘send’ button on this competition entry, I will, for the first time, have done what I can, trusted in him and produced a piece of work good enough for God.