Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Glory Hunting

Yesterday was a disaster. First the dog refused to eat and I spent 45 minutes trying to come up with the most appetizing concoction to persuade him. (It’s a part of the chronic kidney disease that makes him not want to eat, even as it’s imperative that he do so.) Then there were glitches with the newsletter – my test version was not received by my hotmail account. Or rather, it was received, according to the newsletter people, it just didn’t show up anywhere. (Neither did the official newsletter for that matter, so if you have a hotmail account and are subscribed to my newsletter but did not receive one today/last night, I’d like to know about it.) I spent a couple of hours trying to work that out, without success. (At least the dog finally ate.)

After that I read some blogs that got me out of sorts, and then an interview of a writer in an unsolicited ezine I received that sent me off to read Amazon reviews informing me I didn’t really know how to write. In the process, I discovered this dreadful new feature Amazon has added to one’s book pages. Now you can see what percentage of people who visited your page bought your books and what percentage bought someone else’s books. This is not a statistic I have any interest in knowing, one way or the other, but especially when it is not in my favor. As it was not yesterday.

Since I have already wasted far too much time and given myself far too many stomachaches comparing sales rankings and numbers of reviews (the warning in 2 Corinthians against comparing notwithstanding) I long ago made it a rule not to visit the pages of other writers, especially those who write in the same genre. I know my old nature well enough to know that no matter what those numbers say, the results will not pretty, and writing momentum will be lost while I round up the flood of rebel thoughts that have been set loose. With this new feature in place, I'm thinking I'm going to have to avoid Amazon altogether -- even my own pages.

As I was contemplating all this, though, my thoughts were turned to the incident at the end of David’s life described in both 1 Samuel and 1 Chronicles where Satan stood up against Israel and moved David to number Israel's army. Joab protested, pointing out they were all David’s servants so why did he need to know how many? It’s a puzzling passage to me, but I think the meaning is that we’re not supposed to be sitting around tallying up blessings, because it only leads to arrogance and comparisons... “Look how many fighting men I have in MY kingdom! Way more than all my neighbors!” Or its opposite, “Oh woe is me. I hardly have any soldiers. Compared to so and so, mine is a tiny, pathetic, weak little kingdom.” Since it was fighting men Joab was sent out to count, this seems to indicate David is either measuring his kingdom’s strength and security or contemplating his own glory. Whoever has the biggest, strongest army will be the one assured of living in peace and security, as well as being the one regarded as most glorious. (Counting and comparing reviews and sales rankings -- if good -- has somewhat the same effect)

But we are not to gain our security from numbers, or any other external things. We gain it from the Lord. And the Lord doesn’t need numbers. Of all people, David knew that, since he’d started his career as one man facing a giant that had intimidated the entire army of Israel. And come to think of it, it can't be a coincidence that this little numbering incident comes in the wake of the final war against the descendents of that Philistine giant when David’s army finally defeated them for good. So maybe it was just sheer arrogance on David’s part, wanting to know how many great and mighty warriors served him... whatever it was, the Lord was not happy with him, and when He made that clear, David admitted it: “I have sinned greatly, in that I have done this thing... Is it not I who commanded to count the people? Indeed, I am the one who has sinned and done very wickedly...” Not just "sinned" but "sinned greatly" and "done very wickedly."

Which reinforces my conclusions as to the error of counting and monitoring the numbers of reviews, fan letters, sales rankings etc. I’m called to serve the Lord, not man. He’s the one who’s given me this gift and the time and ability to use it. If He wants to give me no reviews and no letters and not so great sales rankings, is that not His right? And since He has only my best interests in mind at all times, would that not be for my benefit? He doesn't need good numbers to keep my books published even. And if they're not published, so what? He can still use whatever I do -- or what He does through me -- it just may not be in accordance with what I or the world think is the way He's supposed to use it. But if I am truly doing it as unto Him, out of obedience and love for Him – and for the pleasure that comes from simply working in the gift – why would I not be willing to proceed regardless of what He does or does not do with it, and especially regardless of whatever the world says about it?

Proverbs 25:27 It is not good to eat much honey. Nor is it glory to search out one’s own glory.

It's always grace,