Let me introduce to my friend, Michelle. Michelle DeRusha lives in Lincoln, Nebraska, with her husband and their two boys. She is the author of Spiritual Misfit: A Memoir of Uneasy Faith.You can connect with her on her blog and on Facebook and Twitter.
This fall, I’ve invited a few friends to share what God is teaching them. I hope their words are an encouragement to you as you continue to awaken to the joy and delight that comes with being a child of God.
Madeleine L’Engle quit writing on her fortieth birthday.
That was the day her manuscript for A Wrinkle in Time was rejected yet again. Declaring the rejection “an obvious sign from heaven,” L’Engle shrouded her typewriter with a sheet and then promptly burst into tears.
The trouble was, while she paced back and forth in her study weeping and bemoaning the loss of her profession, L’Engle found herself busily working out a new novel in her head. When she realized she was essentially still writing, L’Engle made a decision that would change the course of her life.
“I uncovered the typewriter,” she wrote in A Circle of Quiet. “I had to write…If I never had another book published, and it was very clear to me that this was a real possibility, I still had to go on writing.”
I can relate.
After a six-year journey, my first book, a memoir, was published last spring. I had high expectations for Spiritual Misfit. I figured I’d “paid my dues” on the long and arduous road to publication. I assumed once the book hit the shelves, I’d have “made it” –I’d be a successful published author, and all would be well.
And…that’s not exactly how it all went down.
Instead, sales floundered. Suddenly having published a book wasn’t enough for me. Despite the fact that I had achieved my dream, I felt like a failure. I equated success with robust sales and a healthy book rank on Amazon.
Mired in bitter disappointment, I turned to Ecclesiastes (the perfect book when you’re in the mood for an epic self-pity party). Amid Solomon’s relentless laments about the meaninglessness of life, I discovered a surprising nugget of wisdom:
“To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life – this is indeed a gift from God,” Solomon observed (Ecclesiastes 5:19)
This, I realized, was Madeleine L’Engle’s epiphany the day she dried her tears, uncovered her typewriter and re-committed herself to writing. In that moment, she understood that her work and her present circumstances were both a gift from God, regardless of whether her words were ever published again or not.
I love my work. Writing is not only my profession, it’s also my God-given calling. Yet somewhere along the way I’d lost sight of that gift. Distracted by lackluster sales and blinded by a desire for success, my work had become a burden and an idol.
Suddenly the gift God had given me wasn’t good enough.
To accept your “lot in life” does not mean you should quit, succumb to apathy or perform your job half-heartedly. Just the opposite, in fact. To enjoy your work and accept your circumstances requires perseverance, but at the same time allows you to live satisfied, liberated from self-determined expectations and confident that God determines your “lot” with love, kindness and mercy.
Four years after Madeleine L’Engle vowed to embrace the gift of her work, no matter the outcome, A Wrinkle in Time was finally published. Not long after, the novel that had been rejected more than two dozen times won the prestigious Newbery Medal.
My books may or may not sell thousands of copies or win prestigious awards. The next publishing contract may or may not come my way. Likewise, you may or may not land the promotion you’ve worked so hard for; you may or may not garner gushing accolades from your boss for a job well-done.
But know this: God calls you to enjoy the work he has given you and to accept your present circumstances, even when they don’t meet your expectations.
God calls you to trust that he can and will turn all things toward good, in his time.
Madeleine L’Engle is one of fifty Christian women featured in Michelle DeRusha’s recently released book, 50 Women Every Christian Should Know: Learning from Heroines of the Faith (Baker Books).
This week, were giving away 3 copies of 50 Women Every Christian Should Know: Learning from Heroines of the Faith by Michelle DeRusha.
Throughout history, countless women have boldly stepped out in faith and courage, leaving their indelible mark on those around them and on the kingdom of God. In lively prose Michelle DeRusha tells their stories, bringing into focus fifty incredible heroines of the faith.
From Catherine of Siena, Teresa of Avila, and Anne Hutchison to Susanna Wesley, Harriet Tubman, and Corrie ten Boom, women both famous and admirable live again under DeRusha’s expert pen. These engaging narratives are a potent reminder to readers that we are not alone, the battles we face today are not new, and God is always with us in the midst of the struggle.
The three winners will be selected and announced on Friday.