Thursday, October 05, 2006

And at the last: A Fragrant Offering

Rosh Hashanah, the start of a new year according to the Hebrew calendar … the “real” calendar according to many. Last year’s conference and this year both fell on that date. I feel that is no accident, because there are no coincidences with God.

After the banquet, I went straight back to my room to make those phone calls, but I took a few moments to reflect and gather myself. I remembered the date … so what had this year been about?

I heard the familiar divine laugh. Come now, He seemed to say. Would you really have traded this past year?

I smiled. No way … it had been such an adventure. I learned so much in the writing of this one book—about myself, about Him, about writing. In the process, He allowed me to have the favor of my writing mentor, and to final in the Genesis, and even to have my “favorite” agent request a full ms (and not give it a wholly unfavorable review).

The phone conversation with Rebecca was wonderful, but Sherry shared a nugget that gave me such peace about it all—the metaphor of a medieval labyrinth located in a church in France. The winding path to the center represents a pilgrimage, temporally to Jerusalem, as such journeys were popular during the middle ages, but symbolically to the destination God has for each of us. She described the twists and turns, moving in and out of shadow and candlelight—and of suddenly arriving in the center and looking back in amazement that a journey of such unpredictability led where it did. Yes, I agreed—that is just like life.

I slept well that night, and awoke full of quiet joy and a sense of rightness. Terri and I whispered together until Michelle awoke (Kelly was up early as always), and then we rose to pack our things and go downstairs for breakfast and the last session.

During worship, we had learned several new songs, one of them called “A Fragrant Offering,” a variation on the theme of the weeping woman at Jesus’ feet. While singing it that last morning, the Lord showed me that in writing Gift, it was ultimately just that—my gift, my offering, to Him—a pouring out of my heart and self, to be spent as He chooses.

And what happens to an offering? In the case of the woman’s costly ointment, as well as in burnt sacrifice, the offered thing appears to be wasted. Many people present at the pouring out of that perfume were appalled at this woman’s lack of economy (among other things). There’s really no rational sense behind what a writer does, either … the hours spent pouring out words, drop by drop … words that may never be read by any but the Author and Finisher of our faith … words that we then must labor to purify and distill before they can be the sweet aroma of a well-crafted story.

One of the lines from the song reads, “I offer up to you my brokenness,” and at one point during the conference I asked the Lord, “What? I don’t have enough brokenness that You must add to it?”

The answer? No. I didn’t. I’m realizing that even more now, a week and a half later, in the wake of a separate event that thoroughly humbled me, although God redeemed even a mistake on my part and mercifully made everything work out all right. We must die to our pride. We must die to our perfectionism. The whole point of human history is that God uses the imperfect to bring about His perfect will. His strength is made perfect in weakness … we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of Him and not of us.

I grew so weary of crying so often—not so much for that on Cait’s behalf (and some of my tears and longing on the flight home were born of grief for her and utter thankfulness that I had a strong, living husband to return home to), but for all my weakness in the face of the many brushes with God’s glory. (I loved Claudia Mair Burney’s account of her experience at ACFW—she talks about “crying incessantly” at every turn. That was me …)

And yet I came away with such assurance that I’m right where God wants me to be … such a feeling of being loved … I’m awed and humbled at all the friends God has given me. I’ve often said before that even if my work never sees print, it’s been worth it for all the awesome people I’ve gotten to meet on the way … and I’m not just talking about published authors!

I am to go ahead with working on the historical … and in the meantime, perhaps shop Gift around in the ABA. If it pleases the Lord that the story gets noticed there, then that’s His business—but I’m not going to stress over it.

He walks this path with me, every step. “Behold … I will even make a way in the wilderness …”

Later … a few conference photos, and after-reflections …

3 comments:

  1. This has been a beautiful report. I think many of us needed to hear this, too.

    Mir

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  2. Anonymous9:37 AM

    "We must die to our perfectionism. The whole point of human history is that God uses the imperfect to bring about His perfect will."

    Oh, that explains SO much! Like why it SEEMS that prayers go unanswered and why it FEELS like God is not moving. Or listening. Or even answering his email. We have to let go of thinking that we know the perfect way for things to pan out, for problems to be solved, for our lives to be lived. Man, is that ever hard to do! I'm so glad we're all in the same boat.... :)

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  3. Such beautiful writing, Shannon. I'm in tears. And I thank God that he blessed me with You.

    hugs
    Beth

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