How He Sometimes Strips Us, or What Writing Means to Me (Part 8)

This past weekend, in celebration and remembrance of our engagement that happened on St. Patrick's Day last year, Kirk took me to our favorite Orlando hotel, the JW Marriott, which I have shared about a few times before. (For those inquisitive types out there who may be somewhat new to this blog, you can read more about those times here and here.)

We spent time at the pool, enjoyed the luxurious bed (I can never get over the splendor of their fabulous beds!), and shared a fantastic meal on Saturday night. It was a meal replete with soul-stirring conversation, a glorious bottle of wine, and melt-in-your-mouth desserts.

The restaurant was a new experience for both of us and, like I said, a fantastic one. The place is high-class, and they serve perfect portion sizes of the most perfectly prepared food, all of it organic and grown either in the garden right outside their doors or brought in from local farmers and fishermen. (For those of you un-health-conscious types, this is not to say that "organic" and "locally grown" translates into "boring" and "blah" food. On the contrary, actually. I enjoyed a very light and tasty shrimp scampi linguini, while Kirk enjoyed fall-apart-in-your-mouth sea scallops and asparagus spears. Yum!)

That was one fantabulously perfect meal, I tell you. I would love to re-live it again.

But the most important aspect of the weekend was quite outside all these things. The most important part of the weekend was the way God showed up when we asked Him to. On our way there, as we were driving away from our home toward the yet-undisclosed-location, I said a prayer out loud in the car that invited God deeper into our time away. We had previously voiced that this weekend was set aside as a devotional one, filled with worship and closeness in Him and the seeking out of His face, so I prayed that He would reveal the deeper heart of His plans for us over the course of the weekend, no matter what that might mean. And in His faithful way, He did just that.

He did this in a number of ways, but I want to share one of the life-crashing ways He did it with me. For some context, I should say that for the past two and a half months, I've been committed to a writing partner I have never met. She contacted me through a mutual friend toward the end of last year, and she lives in Iowa. We agreed to work on "pages," as we've come to affectionately call them, and to send them to each other for review at regular intervals through the mail. Just what this agreement actually means to both of us has morphed several times in the near-three months we've worked at it, as each of us have had to clarify again and again to ourselves what, exactly, our projects are. It has been exciting at times, and it has been flat-out exasperating at others. We've said things to each other like, "I resent your presence in my life, even though I choose for you to be in it" and "I like the way e-mail can keep me from dealing with you." All said in the most affectionate of tones and with the greatest of respect, of course.

The truth on my end of things, though, is that I've dried up like a stick. I'll commit to a project, write ten pages on it, send it to her, and hit that infuriating wall. So then I'll commit to a different project, tell myself, "Yeah -- this is what I should have been committed to doing instead," distance myself emotionally from the previous project, only to slam up against that blank wall of a page a few days later. Pretty much, it's awful. Pretty much, I hate it. Pretty much, it makes me loathe myself.

You know what it feels like? It feels like I've gone all the way back to that writer-poser self I thought I had so successfully sloughed off of my skin. (You know, the one I wrote about here and here.) But as I've faced the fright of the blank page with absolutely nothing soon in coming, the terror of having nothing to say has grown worse and my resistance to sitting down and continuing to try has only grown stronger.

Has my worst nightmare descended finally upon me, I've wondered slowly. Am I a writer with nothing to say?

All of this came to a head this past weekend. As part of our commitment to the devotional aspect of our weekend, Kirk brought along some ivory cardstock cards and proceeded to lead us in a time of giving-over on Saturday night, after we'd returned to the room after dinner. As we sat with these cards, we kept asking ourselves the question, "What would He have us commit to His care and His lordship?" We then would take turns writing things down on the cards before signing and dating them.

On my second card, I wrote, "My writing -- whatever it's meant to be and to be for." I signed and dated it. I put it in the pile. I affirmed in my heart that He means my writing for Him and that He wants to dictate what it becomes. I brought my will into agreement with that belief and went to sleep peacefully upon it.

I did not, however, realize what was waiting just around the corner.

In the morning, Kirk and I left the hotel and stopped by a restaurant for breakfast. We had a great conversation that stirred up a bunch of energy and excitement, and so we decided to stop at Starbucks before going home so we could work out some of that energy in productive activity. He was going to work on his business idea, and I wanted to work on my writing (even though I had no idea, at that point, what that actually meant anymore). But as we drew nearer the Starbucks, the more my enthusiasm faded with every mile and turn. I felt a sinking in my heart. I felt a dense, cold, clay rock begin to ball itself up in my stomach. In actuality, I wanted to throw up.

We decided to sit outside, and Kirk went inside to order our drinks. I pulled out my laptop, opened it up to a brand-new blank page, and stared blankly at the screen. I blinked a few times, since the sun was hitting it, then moved around to a better angle. I stared at the screen some more and then realized: I didn't have anything to say.

Kirk came out with our drinks. I made an effort to smile. (It was a pitiful effort.) Shortly afterward, I closed the laptop and asked if he could pass me a notepad from his backpack. Perhaps if I write it longhand it will come, I thought. Nevermind that I hadn't written in longhand in probably at least six years, but maybe this would do the trick in freeing me up to land upon an idea.

I wrote about a paragraph that was a puking, mewling attempt at prayer. It was riddled with complaints and cries. It testified to my very lost self. Pretty soon, I gave that up, too, and began drawing in the margins with my purple felt pen, making designs and then blotting them out. Kirk watched me for a while and then gently suggested we make our way on home. I shrugged and then let him lead me to the car like I was a blind girl who needed to be steered.

When we got home, I curled up on the couch and faced the wall. I pulled a blanket over my body and closed my eyes tight. I have nothing to say, I admitted to myself in a tiny, tiny voice. I want with everything in me for this not to be true, but it's true. I don't know what to say.

You want to know the point of this whole story? It's to say that even though, in theory, I wanted my work to be God's, what I actually wanted more was to have work. To have written. To have something to say.

"I want to be shiny," I confessed to Kirk a little later, after I'd come to grips with this truth inside myself. That about sums it up.

Because He loves me so much, I believe God is allowing me to come to the end of myself through this whole process. I believe the point is to begin to realize how insufficient I am to control or dictate my own life, and even my own measly words. I believe it's to have absolutely nothing left so that all I have is this big gaping hole that needs Him and Him alone. Because that is His greatest joy: our need of Him, His own sufficiency.

I am only beginning to scratch the surface of what this might mean. But I have hope that the surface is there, that I'm scratching it, and that it's leading to more. I hope you'll accompany me along in the journey. Amen.