“I only do what I see my Father doing.” This was the one guiding principle of Jesus’ life. It explains why, at the Pool Bethesda, He singled out one man from the many and healed him. It explains why, when the rich young ruler walked away, He let him go and didn’t chase after him. Given the thousands of people clamouring for His attention, this one principle must have saved Him an awful lot of stress and wasted effort.
I want to try to learn to follow Him in this and live my life this way, too. At the end of last year, it became apparent through a combination of circumstances, words of prophecy, and God’s signature peace all over the decision, that it was right for me to give up my job and turn my energies to writing (I have always written, but it has never been my main occupation before). I had no illusions that I could earn a full time living from it, and as a single parent I need to earn a living. But it really was the direction in which God was leading me, and one of the prophecies I received specifically mentioned not worrying about my income but trusting God to provide. So it was to be a big faith venture too, and that really excited me, casting my all on God and letting Him provide for me as a loving Father does.
No sooner had I resigned my job than the publisher of my first book telephoned me and by the end of the conversation I had agreed to write 3 more textbooks and at least 4, possibly 6, compilation books of topical articles linked to the A level Philosophy and Ethics syllabus. This, too, had God’s signature peace all over it.
I sent out 7 magazine articles and proposals for articles, and 6 of them were immediately accepted. I put my details onto several freelancing websites, and before long I was receiving offers of work or invitations to bid for work. 3 friends also approached me about either writing books for them or co-authoring books with them. Exciting stuff, but I couldn’t manage it all – especially as I was already well on the way with writing a book I felt God had given me to write. I decided to try to apply Jesus’ principle. Every time I was offered work, I asked, “Father, is this something You’re doing? Do you want me to get involved in this one?” I only accepted the work if I sensed His “yes”.
Interestingly, apart from the educational books, most of the projects I felt He has said yes to are ones that will probably not earn me much if anything at all. I’m not worried by this – I’ve spent the last year wide-eyed in wonder at His ability to provide for me supernaturally. All he’s calling me to do is to be obedient.
On Thursday, the Association of Christian Writers’ Facebook page was buzzing with a thread that ended up with over 100 posts. Someone had posted a blog from a Christian publisher which said that it’s no longer acceptable to offer a book to a publisher and expect him or her to market it. Even before the book proposal is offered, authors need to have built their own platform. In practice that means you need to have 2,000 followers of your blog and on Twitter and Facebook, to convince the publisher that you have a fan base who will buy your book, and that he will get a return on his investment. We all frantically began following each other on Twitter. From having hardly used my Twitter account and having one follower, I started tweeting hectically like everyone else and picked up another 14 followers.
Then I paused and thought: I haven’t asked the Father if this is something I see Him doing. I spent part of Friday morning in stillness and silence, listening out for the still, small voice amid the clamour. Very clearly, I heard Him say, “Do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”
On Saturday I went to a writer’s day put on by the Association of Christian Writers – the first one I have attended, very enjoyable and worthwhile; I will definitely be going again. Once again, the theme was that we must build a platform, and self-promote in order to promote Christ. I can fully appreciate that publishers need to know, when they take on a book, that it will be profitable and I can entirely understand what was being said, and I don’t disagree with it. (Ok, well maybe I do have a little question-mark about it; should Christian publishing be going the way of the world, or should we be saying there is a different, kingdom way of doing this? I just throw the question out; I’m not going to discuss my response to it here.)
But for me, personally, I grew increasingly convinced that this is not what the Father is doing. I can identify with John’s words, “I heard a voice from heaven saying, Write.” But so far, that’s all the voice has said to me. How what I write reaches its intended audience is God’s responsibility. If I hear Him tell me to start tweeting frenetically, as He clearly has to some Christian writers, my Twitter profile will spring into life.
But I know that I can only write from the deep spring within me, and in order to keep that replenished and go on having life-giving words to write, I need to spend time by the Well. That’s going to mean, for me, that I spend much less, not more, time on Twitter and Facebook. In fact you might find me fairly absent for a time. I’m going to book myself some silent retreat days over the next few weeks and spend much more time with the Man at the Well, letting Him speak His life-giving words into my spirit.
This morning in Church as I thought over my frantic “tweeting” and “following” on Thursday, I had a mental picture of myself putting on running shoes to rush around “building my platform”. But when I paused to listen to that still small voice beyond the hubbub around me, I heard Him telling me to take off my shoes and spend some time just standing in adoration on holy ground. So, unlike some of my friends, I haven’t given up Facebook for Lent; nevertheless, I may be rather absent for a time. I’ll be standing, unshod, staring into a burning bush and hearing a voice out of it. Or I’ll be sitting at the Well, listening to One who offers me a well inside me, springing up to eternal life. I have no idea how I’ll get my work published, or where this journey will take me. But I suspect I may have something more worth saying for having taken the time to listen to my Father.