“Sometimes I really hate the Inklings,” said Sarah. I laughed when she said it.
Sarah Bessey was a keynote speakers at this year’s Faith and Culture Writers Conference1. The Inklings, if you don’t know, was a gathering of writers at Oxford who would get together to drink bear, smoke cigars, and critique each other’s work. C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien are two of the more well-known members of the group.
Thoughts of the Inkings bring up a writer’s fantasy—sitting in a pub for long undisturbed hours writing. Then more hours talking with other writers about writing. It’s that sense of home, hanging out with people who share the same journey, the same kind of craziness, feeling not alone.
The rest of Sarah’s quote brought the house down.
“I could have invented Middle Earth too if I had a housekeeper.”
Part of the fantasy is that great writing happens best in a perfect atmosphere. Those literary icons were at Oxford, for God’s sake, with beer and smoke and tweed jackets. No one had to run off to deliver the kids to school, or turn in end-of-quarter reports to a naggy manager.
Sarah went on to talk about her experience writing Jesus Feminist. Not in a pub, it turns out. Sometimes she wrote cross-legged on the floor of her bathroom while her children were in the bath, or in 15-minute snatches during naps. She wrote in the long ragged hours after everyone was asleep, and early in the morning before the chaos of the day.
Her story was important because of the fantasy. The real work doesn’t happen when the candles are arranged just so, or when you snagged the perfect table at your coffee shop. That’s just an excuse. The real work happens in the in-between moments of our lives. That’s when the work is authentic, when it’s tied up in the intimate details of our lives, written while everything isn’t OK.
If Only I Had A Housekeeper!
You may not be a writer, and you may be wondering how this applies to you. Hang in there with me, OK?
“I could have invented Middle Earth too if I had a housekeeper.” If I had a house keeper… If only my circumstances were different. Ever said anything like that?
I struggle with this every single day. I don’t think I can do my 500 words today. I had to get up early and take the kids to school and my work schedule is slammed. I don’t think I can take the time to journal and read scripture this morning. I’m so wiped out from being sick. I don’t think I can work on the next video for my online course today. I really need to [insert laudable responsibility here]! Excuse.
The days pass, and I don’t move forward into who God made me to be. This is not a writer’s problem; is a people problem. We’re always telling ourselves that we could move forward, we could make a difference, if only our circumstances were different.
Followers of Jesus do the same. We promise ourselves that we’ll tithe, just when things come together a little better for us financially. We commit to serving when we finish up this project. We’ll obey God’s invitation when things are better, stronger, more on track. We tell ourselves that once we’ve gotten the house taken care of, or the kids raised, or that new position locked in, then we’ll be able to follow. Excuse.
You realize, of course, that’s only a way to justify our inaction today.
What we’re missing.
For writers, it means that good words don’t get written. They miss out doing the thing they love.
For followers of Jesus, it’s something more. It means that people don’t get loved, or fed, or encouraged. It means that the children’s ministries in a thousand small churches struggle to make do with too little help. It means that lonely people stay isolated and become more depressed. It means that addicted people never find a safe community where they can face their demons and find healing. It means that pastors burn out trying to do everything themselves.
While all these great things go undone, something worse happens. That follower of Jesus, the one who put off obedience because things aren’t quite right, they miss out, too.
- They miss out on the joy of making a difference for someone else.
- They miss out on the rush of trusting God in a pinch.
- They miss out on seeing God work through their little gifts to radically change someone’s life.
- They miss out on seeing Jesus in the least of these.
- They miss out on real things that deserve to be prayed for and end up with a dry, self-centered prayer life that feels pointless.
- They miss out on the adventure of living in this new and coming Kingdom.
So, if you’re a writer, start writing even when the circumstances aren’t perfect. If you’re a follower of Jesus, start following and serving and obeying even when your life is full and you have every reason not to.
Sarah Bessey called it your “Right Now Life,” and it’s where you’ll meet God if you stop trying to worry your circumstances into place, and start living your calling.
- If you’re a writer or creative, I really encourage you to go next year. It was an incredible gathering of creative people who follow Jesus, working out how to fulfill their calling. Lots to learn, lots of kindred souls to connect with. http://faithandculturewriters.com/home/ target=”_blank”>Check it out here. No excuse. Just go. ▲