Over the years I’ve gotten a few e-mails that made my heart skip a beat. Sometimes I stared at the subject line for a few moments, giving myself time to prepare for what I might read.
One of those e-mails arrived from my publisher just after we’d finished the editing on my novel, One Smooth Stone. I was afraid to open that e-mail because I knew it meant an end to the process. It meant the book was on its way to the printer and there was no stopping it. It meant all those words I’d written and re-written were actually going to be read by people who would hold my book in their hands. It scared me to death.
It scared me because I felt the book was not good enough. There was so much more in me, there were so many more words I wanted to include on those pages, so much more I wanted to dig out of my heart and soul and communicate. I wanted another year. No! I wanted a lifetime. But I knew my publisher wasn’t likely to grant it. The book was finished as far as he was concerned and it was out of my hands.
That e-mail should have been reason to celebrate, but it left me feeling strangely empty and even a bit depressed. I wanted to call my publisher and tell him I was truly sorry but I just couldn’t let the book go yet. But I knew my publisher would remind me about the contract I’d signed. He would no doubt be rolling his eyes and thinking “Writers!” while he listened to me whine.
So I whined to my husband instead. He wisely counseled that I give myself some time to get used to the idea that this project was over. “But it’s not good enough!” I insisted. He was quiet for a moment, then said, “Well, isn’t that a good thing? What if you thought this was the absolute height, the best you could do? Where would you go from there? This way you know you’ve got another book in you.”
I sat back in my chair when I realized the truth of his words. Yes. I do have another book in me, one that will be better because of what I’ve learned in the process of doing the first one. Then my mind struck on a scripture verse that has often given me pause. “… for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
My words will never be good enough to change a heart, to transform a soul. But God’s Spirit working through those words can work miracles of change and transformation. I, like Paul, will always have some kind of ‘thorn’ that will keep me from performing at the height of my capabilities, but God will use that to His glory. His grace is indeed sufficient, sufficient even for whiny writers who think their work is never good enough.
The proof of this was not long in coming. One of the first copies out of the box went to a friend. She sat up all night reading it - couldn’t put it down, she said. Then she had to go to a funeral the next day. I was feeling sorry for her until she continued the story. At the reception after the funeral her ex-husband approached and asked if they could have coffee the next day. She was reluctant. As most divorces are, theirs had been messy and bitter. The pain was still quite raw. But she said yes. My friend smiled as she told me their meeting turned out to be one of healing and forgiveness. “And I know why I read your book that night. It gave me so much understanding, and even words to say as he opened his heart to me.”
My words – His Spirit. My weakness – His strength.