Thursday, March 30, 2006

The doors are closing -- Part 1

The light is dimming, and the doors are closing on Christian SF/F. I'm hearing that said more and more places. I see it, too, even on a personal level. I don’t know what the Lord is going to do. From the emails I get there are an awful lot of people who want to write fantasy, so I don’t understand why that doesn’t translate into readers willing to buy it. But trying to analyze such things is a complete waste of time. The bottom line is, "You’re not promoted until the Lord promotes you. If He doesn’t prosper you, you don’t want it." I know that’s a hard concept to get hold of. I sometimes even still hear my own whiny inner voice say, “Oh. I don’t know. I think maybe it would be pretty good.” When I write it out like that, though, I recoil in disgust. "Promotion from the devil and his world would be good? Are you out of your mind? Go read Ecclesiastes again and remember what is true."

What is true is that there is so much more to life than being published. But we writers seem to get this tunnel vision wherein being published becomes crucial to our happiness. To contemplate the prospect of never having it can send us into depression for days. Some of us can't bear to contemplate it at all. Yet Paul said, "If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content." Most of us have WAY more than those simple necessities: ease of living, health, families, friends, material prosperity, literacy, the word of God taught in every conceivable format -- blessings that outstrip anything the majority of people who have ever lived in all of time have experienced. And yet… the door is closing, some are saying. My books might never be published. Those of us who are published wonder, Will the books of my heart come into print only to die in obscurity in a matter of months? Will I ever publish another one?

It’s happened to many, many writers, I’m sorry to say. In the general market a book can appear on bookstore shelves and vanish in a matter of weeks. All that work, gone in mere weeks. Ecclesiastes 9 speaks to this… The race is not to the swift, the battle is not to the strong, bread is not to the wise and favor is not to the clever, for time and chance overtake them all. There are no guarantees.

Some think just doing enough work, hanging on long enough, and having enough faith will get them through. I thought that. But at the same time, I’ve always known the fallacy in that. If it's not the Lord's will for my life, it may not ever happen. And how can I ever be certain it is His will until it does happen? For a long time I didn't want to accept that possibility, and so I alternated between hope and despair, promise and discouragement.

The answer to that perpetual state of doublemindedness turned out to lie in accepting both possibilities. To realize if God chose to deny the publication I desired, I would not be losing out. His plan would not be less. Indeed, God’s plans are far bigger and better than anything I could come up with. And also much different. When I began to contemplate and believe how much He loves me, to focus not on the gifts, but on the Giver, I finally began to experience some consistent peace in this matter. Happiness does not depend on any particular circumstance, for we know deep in our hearts that any circumstance can change. No matter what worldly securities we acquire, they can be lost in a moment. Because life is change and we never know what a day may bring.

What we know is that the Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him. We know that if we stay in His Plan we will see His goodness in the land of the living. It might manifest itself in the fulfillment of our heartfelt dreams, or it might be something far, far greater. And the thing is... we have no idea which or what. Even when we're in it, we don't know. We can speculate and imagine and try to extrapolate. But we really just don't know. All we can hang on to is the the fact that if we trust Him, obey Him, and wait patiently for Him to do the work, we won't be disappointed.

Grace and peace