There is a fine line between patience and lethargy. There is a fine line between commitment to goals and obsession. There is a fine line between a healthy, positive self-esteem with its sense of confidence and good expectations and a kind of hubris. There is a fine line between healthy productive self-analysis and a sort of self-flagellation. There is a fine line between hearing God’s “still, small voice” and hearing your own voice or that of the devil.
Some say they can always clearly distinguish those 3 voices and act only of God’s voice. I do not deny that is so for some who have been especially close to God for a long time. I admire that. However, for myself, it has been a long, hard quest to distinguish. Maybe that is normal in Christian growth. But maybe it is also some fear of hearing God’s voice ask me to do something I cannot bear to do or to stop doing something that I absolutely ador doing.
The Bible speaks of Abraham waiting until old age to see God’s promise of a son (Isaac) by his wife, Sarah, manifested. Then God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son. Abraham was willing to do so and God stopped him at the last minute. Like Abraham, I had traveled a long hard road before I discovered what I felt was my “literary Isaac”. I had enjoyed writing since childhood, years before but had put it aside to make my living as a commercial artist (my other main talent) and one I could get paid for.
Now the urge to write had come back like a torrent and there was a greater thrill in it than I had ever known before with the best quality work I had ever done. As time passed with it unpublished, I asked “WHY”. A friend asked me if I would be willing to sacrifice my novels if God asked me to. I should have said a resounding “YES” but could not. To this day the questions sometimes comes back on me like acid reflux.
So far as I know, God has never asked me to sacrifice my writing. Still, I have wondered if I must be willing to sacrifice “my literary child” before God will allow me to be published (whether He ever asked me to do so or not). Of course a truly righteous person would probably not even consider the thought “before God will allow me to be published”. That immediately tells me that I am not a truly righteous person. – Is anyone? – No. But then I should not use that as a cop out.
Like my temper flare ups when things go wrong, it shows me the quality of the juice my supposed “fruit of the spirit” produces when I am squeezed. Then there is the probability that if I did tell God I was putting my novels on the altar and struck a match (holding it up in the air like Prince Valient did his sword) I would feel such a rush of self-righteousness that it would invalidated the entire proceeding. – Does that mean I will graduate into heaven at the end (since I have trusted Jesus as my Savior), but that I must withdraw from that specific course with a failing grade?
Is God asking me these tortuous questions or it the the devil. I don’t know. I do know that the Bible says we are called to peace. Such thoughts do not bring peace so I put them from me when the enter along with a lot of others I have not answers for or cannot bear. I am told to think on those things that are noble, lovely, virtuous, of good report, etc. Such thoughts do not fall into that category. I do not shrug off self-improvement except to say that it is basically a myth. Only God can truly improve us in a way that is deep and lasting.
Am I a good writer, painter and sculptor. I think so. Not a genius, but good. Am I a good person? No. To know that is so and yet know that God loves me unconditionally is very freeing. Not freeing to sin, but freeing to live the “abundant life” Christ died to give His children, even among the turmoil of earthly life. When I realized this in a deeper way, I could cast my care on Him (including the publication of my writing). Do I still want to be published successfully? YES! Am I having a swell life with it or without it? “YES!” – The fact that I can write this blog is tangible proof that that is so. A day was when I could not have done so. Do I still have flare ups? YES! But I have flare ups when the yard man doesn’t show up and the the computer has a glitch.