Originally written on January 28, 2009, under the title “When God Whispers the Thunder”:
It’s funny how often I find myself spiraling downward into some foul mood. Call it frustration, loneliness, burnout, dried creativity, physical exhaustion, bad pizza, whatever. But for the sake of argument I think it’s safe to call it frustration. Every foul mood begins and ends there.
It doesn’t matter what triggers it: I’ve discovered that frustration is nothing more than a lack of control. And given my creative nature, I find that a lack of control means a huge possibility that things won’t go my way.
Sometimes it’s small, laughable. More than once I’ve gone to Publix, ordered a custom sub, had them dress it up with my favorite veggies, wrap it up, and picked up a bag of chips and drink for the combo. More than once I’ve purposely left off the condiments (except mayonnaise) because I had special plans for that barbecue sauce or A-1 sitting in my fridge. And more than once I’ve come home, put a DVD in the player, unwrapped that sub, went to the fridge, and discovered I’m out of barbecue sauce (or A-1, or whatever would give that sauce flavor). And then frustration hit when I realized I have to put everything on hold just to go back to Publix to buy another bottle of sauce.
Sometimes it’s large. As a writer, I need feedback, especially when what I’m writing may influence my future (if it’s great, I have a career; if it sucks, I’m back to the drawing board). Sometimes getting that feedback takes months. Sometimes I don’t get it at all. Sometimes, despite the help I need (in some cases desperately), I’m left fending for myself, hoping, praying, pleading to God that I’m doing the right thing. Sometimes I am. Sometimes I fall flat on my face. Most of the time I question what I’m fighting for. Most of the time I realize I’d rather be sleeping.
Usually I expect God to pull some miracle out of His universe-sized hat, snap a finger, crush a demon, do whatever it takes to bail me out of my frustration. Rarely do I ask for contentment (and I’ll admit that’s partly because I feel like contentment—or at least certain versions of it—is an excuse to submit to mediocrity, which I don’t subscribe to, but that’s another theological discussion for another time). It’s hard for me to ask for something like that. Probably because I’m tired of waiting for “other factors” to fit into place. Probably because in my patience, I grow weary. Probably because in my attempts to act, and because of the overwhelming opposition, I grow cynical to change. And when I expect a miracle, I often find myself not really expecting it.
I should probably rephrase this: I expect miracles—I met a couple of kids a few weeks ago who were crippled since infancy (from a devastating car accident), and I’ve prayed for them pretty consistently since, and I expect to see them fully formed next time they come into my studio—I just stopped expecting them in my own life. And it frustrates me.
Last night I fell into one of my moods. I couldn’t sleep. Couldn’t write. Couldn’t think straight. It was crippling. I took a walk, didn’t really feel any better, tried to sleep anyway, managed about an hour-and-a-half before waking up again, and thought, okay, now what?
It had been a couple of weeks since I’d last watched one of those “Active Word” videos on Bob Coy’s website (www.activeword.org), so I figured I’d watch one of those. The most recent video “I Just Didn’t Expect That” seemed relevant somehow, so I put that one going.
About forty-five minutes later, I was laughing.
The sermon focused on a valiant captain named Naaman. He had many honors. Highly celebrated. Leader. Rambo. And he was a leper. What?
In the interest of keeping this short, I’m gonna skip to the end (you can just watch the video—it’s worth it). But the ending is that he had expected a miracle of healing given to him in a divine, powerful, grandiose way. What he got was a miracle made as simple as taking a bath.
He had nearly refused it because he didn’t think a miracle should come so quietly. He didn’t think God would come so quietly.
I’ve been frustrated because I’m a dreamer. Yes, I can admit that. I dream big. Probably too big. And I think it shows whenever I tell people my plans. Some are verbally supportive in the moment. And yet, most of the time it feels like they could care less. Writing a novel is a huge undertaking. And yet, very few will actively support it (like reading it). It’s discouraging. Partially because I’ve put so much heart into it. But also because I think it should be a big deal.
And then God spoke something to me at the end of that video. It was quiet, yes, but powerful. Every time I’ve hyped up my writing, the response sounded like those infamous crickets. And it frustrated me. To me, it’s a big deal, a huge deal, even a grandiose deal. And yet it receives no love. I started to think that no one really paid attention. But then, to my surprise, a discussion broke out this week. Surprised, amused, but confused. The discussion had nothing to do with my novel or my grandiose, utterly ridiculous plans, but with my feet.
I guess I could sit back right now and wonder why my friends think my feet are more interesting than my deepest desires, but then, I think that’s God’s point. Why should He show up, stir people’s hearts, capture my own heart through something as overwhelming as an epic novel, and bring people together, when He could do it better (and make me laugh) through a simple discussion about that insignificant, fleshy thing that does nothing more than allow me to walk straight?
Anyway, I’m not rehashing anything that isn’t better explained in the Active Word, but I found it relevant.