Visions, Dreams, & Inner Monsters
Americans—immigrants and non-immigrants alike--are encouraged to dream. How many sappy movies are out there about characters chasing far-fetched ideas and inventions at all costs? How many high-performance athletes and celebrities tell us their improbable success stories, subconsciously distorting our perception of reality? The message is consistent and clear: nothing matters more than the dream. If you sacrifice enough, it will pay off big one day. No one wants to make a movie about how sacrificing too much might just end up costing you everything in the end.
No one told me that when I got married, my dream needed to have a place for my husband--not the fictional, mocha-skinned Ken doll my childhood imagination fashioned whose only ambition in life was to accommodate my every whim.
This dream would need to make room for the flesh and blood man whom I am doing life with—a person no less complex than I am with his own set of ideals, goals, gifts, and personality traits that sometimes come into conflict with mine. Then we brought children into the mix--demanding little humans who deplete a large portion of our energy stores and resources simply by existing. If you’re committed to loving your spouse and children well, then one day, you will realize that the dreams you started out with before they existed aren’t big enough or malleable enough to accommodate your collective needs and wants. Yikes. Many of the most driven people, never married and/or remained childless. If they chose to marry and/or procreate their families were often unwillingly subjected to relative neglect and an absentee relationship. I wish someone had told me that I would need to constantly balance the kind of wife/mother my family needs me to be with the kind of person chasing "the dream" would turn me into. You don’t realize the monster it can make you into unless you are willing to look at yourself through the wounded eyes of your loved ones every once in a while. It might seem worth it to you, but it might not be at all worth it to them. The ease with which I was willing to drop thousands of dollars on editing, publishing, book reviews, and tons of promotional campaigns is, in retrospect, astounding, chilling, and slightly embarrassing. I knew better than to expect a best-seller as a debut author, but I couldn’t stifle the dream of unexpectedly winning a prestigious literary award, landing a contract with a major publishing house, or sitting for interviews with thought leaders I deeply respect. It's only recently that I have made the connection that just as the LORD has charged me to inhabit the social media and book author space in a unique way that involves discerning when and how to engage and disengage, He has also ordained that my book would perform in a quietly powerful way among a small but dedicated community.
In other words, I am not the next Jackie Hill Perry (and boy, do I admire her public witness). I’m not sure why I imagined that my book would somehow perform according to the established parameters of popularity and success. I now know that I may never see much of the impact of my writing. My LORD is pleased with it and that will have to be enough for this project and all the publications that follow. I know this in my head, but my heart wants what it wants and so, I can’t help but feel discouraged at times. Every day I have an important choice to make about my writing life. Will I allow myself to be seduced by yet another reviewer, PR firm, bookstagram promotor, book fair organizer, or obscure magazine editor promising a large platform and astronomical book sales for just the right price? Or will I esteem the hours and days my family paid towards the creation of this book and stop viewing it as if its failures and successes are solely mine to bear?
The line between passion and ego is razor-thin. I am called to the narrow, rocky path of following my passion without losing myself to it. I have to find the courage to kill the monster every time it rears its ugly head along this road. Even though I am far from conceited, this is still a struggle for me. Part of me wants to throw caution to the wind and continue pleasing my flesh while calling it obedience to GOD. It feels good to label stubbornness and zeal as spiritual. Sometimes it is, but not always. The hard truth is this: the LORD called me to be a writer, but he also called me to be a wife to my husband, the mother of my children, a physician, and many other things. I don’t get to abandon the other callings on my life in service to the particular calling that most excites me. I’m called to all of it simultaneously and the only way it’s possible to do well is by surrendering to the Spirit of GOD on the inside of me.
A dear church sister of mine said to me recently, "Listen well." I'm saying this to myself as I say it to whoever is reading this: Listen well. The vision may come from GOD but the way you execute it is up to you. If you carry it out in a way that puts you at odds with your spouse, distances you from your children, or causes you to be reckless, prideful, or selfish, then that’s not on GOD--it’s on you.
4 Stay united with me, as I will with you — for just as the branch can’t put forth fruit by itself apart from the vine, so you can’t bear fruit apart from me.5 “I am the vine and you are the branches. Those who stay united with me, and I with them, are the ones who bear much fruit; because apart from me you can’t do a thing. 6 Unless a person remains united with me, he is thrown away like a branch and dries up. Such branches are gathered and thrown into the fire, where they are burned up. 7 “If you remain united with me, and my words with you, then ask whatever you want, and it will happen for you. 8 This is how my Father is glorified — in your bearing much fruit; this is how you will prove to be my talmidim (disciples).
-John 15: 4-8
In the name of relevance and nostalgia, please enjoy: