My Lenten Epiphany

I gave up writing for the Lenten season because I was worn through. I gave up writing because I was angry. I was angry that my dream had not/would not/could not come to fruition. I gave up writing and I stewed, and I asked God if he actually wanted me to waste so much energy on a futile task. It’s dangerous to ask God for answers, especially when the answers are so absolute in our own minds. My mind said, “Of course I’m supposed to write. Why would God be so cruel to give me this dream only to rip it from my hands as though he were a sadist who enjoyed the suffering of others?” At the same time, my mind told me, “God doesn’t want you to waste time writing. He wants women to be in the home rearing the children and cooking food and untying their tired husbands’ boots and massaging their husbands’ feet . . .”

Let me tell you right now–God doesn’t think in the absolutist, black and white ideas we erect and call good in his name. If you want to know a surprising truth about yourself, go ahead and kneel before him and ask for it. If you would rather adhere to your black and white schema, don’t bother. God revealed a surprising truth to me, and his truth had nothing whatever to do with the false paradigm of to write or not to write. He showed me how I had cursed myself by vowing, as a child, that I was intelligent if I was a writer; that I was attractive if I was a writer; that those who had shunned me would be forced to acknowledge me if I was a writer.

He showed me that I was peering through a warped lens, that through its vision, I very nearly subverted every chance I had for sanity and wholeness as a person. My lack of success in writing was enough to turn me against reality, to retreat from it rather than to face it in the way God had created me to do–through honest study of the world. This was a breakthrough idea for me, that I was a researcher whose natural outlet was writing, rather than the other way around, in which I would research only for the sake of the written work. I don’t know if this makes much sense to you, the idea of being a fulfilled person through study, but it allowed me to shrug off the weight that rested on my shoulders, allowed me to cast away the warped lens that clouded my vision of reality.

I’m happiest when I study. I really am. I’m happiest when my writing springs from the academic. Looking back, I see my pattern–revert to study as a default method of coping with the world, tell myself I shouldn’t waste my time, that I should be writing books instead, cease the study and work on current fiction project, become thoroughly miserable.

Turning to God for answers was the right response for me. Through him, I was able to break my foolish childhood vow. And, no, he didn’t rise up and say, “Thou shalt not write!” or even its opposite. Instead, he set me free to be the kind of writer and person he created me to be.

Where do I go from here? I don’t know, but I’m trembling while I wait.

Here’s my question for you: Are you the type of writer who researches in order to create a masterwork of writing, or are you a researcher whose natural outlet is writing? Or are you a different kind of writer altogether? Maybe you’re not a writer at all (I know there are some non writers out there!)?



  1. Wonderful post, Jill! I write to write. I do love research–I geek out over history stuff like nothing else–and I love to learn, but when it comes to writing, I'm in love with the words.

    I've struggled with knowing God's purpose for me…if I love to write, am good at (I hope) writing, am happiest writing, is that because that's what God created me to do? Seems a foolishly simple question. Yet I have a hard time answering it. And, of course…if that is God's purpose for me, am I fulfilling it in my small way or should I be devoting more?

  2. You are a gifted writer. Way better than most. I enjoy everything you write and I am picky. Please do not abandon your true self. Research is only a catalyst that will stir up something in you that makes you want to write about it. The entire world of publishing is morphing quickly in this direction: It's becoming your own production, not some publishing house full of bottom lines to meet. So take heart and do not abandon ship before you even board.

  3. Rowenna, yes, foolishly simple. That's why, I think, the answer was more complex than that! We all approach life in different ways.

  4. Brenna, I didn't mean at all that I would give up writing. That's why the answer wasn't black and white. It's how I approach writing–that was the epiphany. I have no intention of giving up on my two latest books. I just need to approach them from a different angle.

  5. Wow, what a profound realization. This gives you a quite diff slant on your life and your writing, I bet! A lot of people wonder the same thing as you, I think. Thanks for putting these thoughts out there! đŸ™‚

  6. Katherine Coble–


    I just typed the longest, most wonderful comment ever to exist in the world of Man and then it got et by the evil Blogger Shark.

    Clearly those words were not meant for posterity. And clearly my WordPress sign in is messed up.

    Anyway, the Reader's Digest version of my comment was this:

    When we work in the Kingdom our lives are measured differently than the World's standards would do. So don't be surprised if your Kingdom work as a writer yields results for Christ that you don't know about right away.

    That happens to me all the time, in spite of the fact that I am such a clay vessel.

    And yes, I love research almost too much.

  7. I've had blogger eat my comments on occasion, too. I'm definitely waiting for the yield, and with a lot more peace than before. Thanks, Katherine.

  8. Good questions and great revelation! I think writer wrestles with those questions many times in their life, but very few actually listen the way you did! As far as what type of writer am I?? I started writing as an emotional outlet and it was where I met God and communicated with him. I write to connect with myself, with God, with my characters…and many times I am learning the very lesson from God that my characters are learning on their journey!

  9. Hey, Gina, good to see you here! This is a long lent season, so I'm still waiting on God for answers . . .

  10. Great post! Very honest and poignant. I've struggled with the whole writer identity thing too. Why do we put ourselves through such misery?

    What kind of writer am I? Hmmm. I'm definitely not a researcher. I like to make up fake worlds so I don't have to worry about being accurate. đŸ™‚

    I think I'm an entertainer/messenger.

  11. I write as a way of processing life. I wake up with a line in my mind and can't do anything until I sit and write (or type) faster than my mind can keep up with the actual words. Then, when I am done, I sit back and read it and think oh… That is what all of that inside of me was. And then I go on with my day. I very, very, rarely share my writing with anyone. I don't write for other people, or accolades, or anything. I write because I have to. It is part of who I am.

  12. Jessica, sometimes, I wish I were an entertainer, but at the same time, I like the way I am. The world needs all kinds, I think. The issue for me was in discovering that I'm a human being aside from being a writer. I don't feel as tortured now. đŸ™‚

  13. Christine, that's awesome. Do you write your thoughts plainly, or in poetry, or fiction? I've always wanted to be a journal keeper, but I never could keep one regularly–except in my senior year in high school.

    I don't know whether I write for accolades or not (it might be nice). My most inspired writing has sprung from research or dreams (which probably came about from too much research). I research and think about things because that's part of who I am. đŸ™‚

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