Monday, August 25, 2008

“And so dear brothers and sisters, be strong and steady, always enthusiastic, knowing that WHATEVER you do for the Lord is useful…” 1 Corinthians 15: 58

The Reason I Write…

It is not what you think. When most people discover I write books, their first questions usually focus on how many copies I have sold or with royalties and notoriety. I don’t have the heart to tell them that writing is very unglamorous, oftentimes to the point of mundane. And, sure, the idea of making lots of money as an author may drive some people’s ambitions, but, sadly, most of these people (really… like 99% of “most) will grow bitter or poor or both.

No, I write to answer questions that I have about life, faith and the oftentimes curious paths we travel. I don’t write to get rich (although there are days I would like to try that vice) or for fame. Actually, lately, I have learned that “visibility” is not all it is cracked up to be.

But, indeed, there is something about having your writing read by someone who loves the words or ideas, and having those same ideas make a difference in a person’s life. It doesn’t get any better than adding a smile to a person’s day or, more profound, causing someone to re-think why and how God loves them.

I write for these moments. I endure the less enjoyable parts of the job… for these moments.

I have a friend named Robert who is one of the best writers I know. He writes a food and culture column and does a beautiful job crafting words into images. He also happens to be one of the nicest guys on the planet and his love for life comes through immediately. When Robert goes to book signings, people stand in long lines to have him sign a copy. By far, Robert is the exception.

No, most book signings are considered successful by the author surviving the tremendous blow associated with sitting in the same place for a couple of hours while dozens of people pass by trying not to make eye contact because they don’t want to buy your book. Needless to say, the process is not a self esteem builder.

For that reason, I don’t do many book signings unless they accompany a speaking engagement at a church or organization. My tender emotional constitution can’t take it. Occasionally, I will accept an invitation, but only if a friend is involved in the asking.

Recently a friend asked if I would do a booksigning at a local Barnes and Nobles where he works. I agreed with trepidation. Sure enough, after arriving, I knew I was in trouble when the first five people who approached the table inadvertently made eye contact with me and looked as though they had just seen their dead aunt waving a butcher knife at them. “Here we go…” I thought. So, I picked up my copy of The Shack (this book now goes everywhere I go—a long story that I will tell at a later date) and started to pass the time.

By the end of the day, I had sold about a dozen copies. I met some very interesting people along the way and made countless others very uncomfortable.
However, just as the event was coming to a merciful end, two folks bought books and reminded me why I write.

The first was a young lady who read about the event in the local paper. Her boyfriend was going through a difficult time and had, that past week, mentioned that he believed “God had disappeared”. She took off of work (her Saturday job) to “stand in line” in order to get a copy in the hope that my book could reassure her boyfriend (It turned out not to be a problem—standing in line that is). Wow! What a scene! She kept telling me “thank you” for writing the book, and I kept telling her “thank you” for buying it.

Then, a few moments later, a young man, who had passed the table several times, stopped and asked about the book’s topic. He used broken English and was uneasy. I asked if he lived in the area and he told me that he was from the Northeast, but had been stationed at a local Navy base for the past few months. He confided that he missed his family and was going through a difficult time. He left base for a few hours to clear his head. He saw the title of the book and, as he put, wondered if “that book talked about the same things he felt.”

Come to discover, the young man was not a believer. He had no idea about Zachaeus or Lazarus and was only vaguely familiar with Jesus. But, after we talked for a few moments he said he “liked what I had to say about Jesus and looked forward to knowing him more”. Knowing him more… what a nice way to put it.

And, so, I sat, once again, with my self esteem on parade, realizing that, in the end, it is not about me, but has everything to do with what God says through me or in me or in spite of me.

And, the same is true for you.

Wherever God leads you this week, know that you are not enough. In fact, we never were. But, we know the One who is and in spite of where He may lead or challenge us (even in doing those things we deplore) God is always working… always shaping… always loving… always making the journey with us.

No, we are not alone—not even at a book signing.

Love you all.
Be salt and light… You matter.

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