I am sending you to say to them, “This is what the Sovereign LORD says!” And whether they listen or refuse to listen — for remember, they are rebels — at least they will know they have had a prophet among them. “Son of man, do not fear them or their words…You must give them my messages whether they listen or not.”
(Ezekiel 2:4b-7, excerpted, NLT)
Reading that weird, prophetic book, Ezekiel, prompted me to write a piece called Sometimes I want to break up with the Bible, but it also busted me out of a spiral of disappointment and bitterness about my writing.
More precisely: about the success of my writing, and my obsession with others’ reaction to it.
I’d been writing with the goal of publication for close to ten years. I was blogging and using social media and going to writers’ conferences and retreats and reading craft books and following the advice and participating in online writing communities. I’d written a novel that I believed God had led me to and prepared me for. The story was strong. The research was energizing. The beta readers’ reactions told me I was on the right track. People were moved by my readings. It was the best thing I’d ever written.
Surely this time I’d find a publisher or agent.
This time, I was unable to be philosophical about the rejections. My disappointment poisoned all my other writing. I became fixated on blog numbers, comments, shares, on why the people whose blogs I read never read mine. Worst of all, I stopped writing.
Then I read this section of Ezekiel: “You must give them my messages whether they listen or not.” God did not measure Ezekiel’s success as a prophet by whether the people listened to him, but by whether he said what the Lord wanted him to say.
It set me free.
The Lord has called and equipped me to be a writer so, when I have written, I have succeeded in my calling. My success can be measured by one thing: whether I wrote.
It’s complicated, because I want to make a living as an author, and for that I need readers. Lots of them. But I sure wasn’t attracting them when I was stopped up by disappointment.
When I redefined success in line with the Ezekiel verse, I could do all the blogging and online relationship building and deep manuscript editing with a sense of freedom, because I was released from the fear that my calling required measurable results in order to be deemed a success in God’s eyes.
So when I’m tempted to get down on myself, I can ask: Did I give the people the words God gave me (whether silly or serious, inspirational or incisive, fictional or factual)? Did I write?
If yes, I’ve successfully lived out my calling.
Thanks be to God.