Wednesday, December 8, 2010

How Football and Honesty Can Make Us Better

by Gina Welborn

I love football. Most of all, I love my football teams: Oklahoma Sooners and Dallas Cowboys. Through victories, losses, and bad coaches, I've stuck with my teams Now if you aren't a football fan, give me a few paragraphs before you decide to tune me out. Please.

A friend of mine (let's call her Amy) was watching the Big Twelve Championship game with my oldest son and moi. I noticed that Virginia Tech was leading Florida State, so I said, "Go Tech!" Amy immediately responded with "Go Florida State!"

Now this confused me. Why cheer for FSU? She lives in Virginia so naturally one would conclude she would cheer for a state school over some other school four states away. Nope. Not Amy. See, Amy is a HUGE University of Virgina fan. Never mind that neither Amy or any of her family members ever attended UVA. Shoot, I didn't graduate from OU so I understand attendance isn't relevant to fan loyalty.

Anyhoo, I asked Amy why wasn't she cheering for V-Tech because it made more logical sense to me to cheer for a local university. "I don't like Tech" was her answer. Then she told me about the year when UVA was playing Miami. Since UVA didn't qualify for a bowl game, she knew that if Miami won, then V-Tech would lose out on a bowl. Thus, she chose to cheer against her team because their losing would hurt V-Tech.

Being the wise and mature person I am, I smiled and went on my merry way watching the game. Ha!

Instead, I looked at her directly and said, "So your hatred of Tech overrides your love for UVA?"

Obviously she denied hating Tech.

That's when I said, "I just don't understand your reasoning. How can you say you're a fan of UVA yet will choose to root against them if their losing hurts another team's chances for success? Seems to me the motivation at the center of your heart is Hatred...and her twin sister Spite."

Eventually we dropped the discussion and went on our merry way to watch OU beat Nebraska to become the last Big Twelve champion. Boomer Sooner!!!

Later that night as I was going to bed, I got to thinking about the discussion and to mind came a book I was reading. What emotion is the central motivation for my life? Hatred? Jealousy? Am I vindictive? Can I honestly rejoice in the success of another while I bask in defeat? Am I selfish or self-less?

Sometimes I hate heart-examination. Worse is I hate admitting my failings. (Except for my spelling blunders.)

Nevertheless, here I go.

I've wanted since last winter to read the writing of A.W. Tozer. Sometime this fall, a copy of FELLOWSHIP OF THE BURNING HEART: A Collection of Sermons by A.W. Tozer showed up in my house. Qui-winki-dink? Hmm. I started reading it last month. The first sermon is called "How to Pray for Revival."

Some of us are praying like this [for the glory of God to be revealed], but there is a serpent in the garden. It is the serpent of self. It twines itself about the most beautiful trees, and it is there to poison your prayers and destroy your prayers. James 4:3 says: "Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss , that ye may consume it upon your lusts."

It is possible for me to go to  my knees, even miss a meal and fast, and say, "Oh, God, let Thy glory be revealed to men," and at the same time have a sneaking hope that I'll be the one He uses to reveal that glory. Do you know what I'm asking for? I'm asking for a cut of the glory of God, a percentage of the glory of God, and I'll never get my prayer answered.

Now, my brethern, we must elevate our hearts and pray: "O God, honor Thyself, but do it through me or do it without me or do it apart from me." ~A.W. Tozer

 I've heard many an author say "I'm writing for God's glory." I've said it. Yet, I can also remember walking along the bookshelves in the Twin Hickory library this past summer, stopping at a best-selling inspirational author's books, and saying, "Someday I'm going to sell more books that you." Oh, I followed it up with "I'm writing for Your glory, Lord. Use me to bring glory and honor and praise to You." After all, it's about Him, not me. Sometimes. Not all the times.

I've rejoiced over the successes of fellow authors, while holding resentment in my heart. "Why not me, Lord? My manuscripts are just as good as hers."

When I say I rejoiced  over the successes of fellow authors, I mean actually rejoiced. When Melanie Dickerson announced she'd sold her medieval manuscript to Zondervan, I was beaming like a proud momma at the computer screen. (Great book, btw!) I was so happy for her. Then I walked away..and the serpents of jealousy, resentment, and selfishness buried themselves in my heart. I wanted to sell my medieval too. I wanted to be the next bright inspirational romance star. I wanted to start my journey of selling more books and receiving more awards than That Author in my library.

So last Saturday night as I was mulling over the hatred and strive motivating Amy's anti-Virginia Tech views, I realized I had bad motivations in my heart too. Just like Amy, I denied the truth because I could honestly say I was happy for my fellow authors' successes.

I had to search the hidden corners of my heart, which God aided by shining a spotlight. (God is rather helpful that way, especially when we ask for help.) I questioned if I could I honestly pray,"Lord, honor Yourself through So-and-So's writing. Use So-and-So to reveal Your glory...even if it means me never being published."

Oh, it was certainly easy...umm, easier to pray that if the person was a dear friend. I'd certainly be okay if God chose to bring honor and glory to Himself through my mentor and friend, Laurie Alice Eakes, by allowing her to become the best-selling historical inspirational romance author of all time. I thought of several author friends, like Julie Lessman, Missy Tippens, and Sandi Rog to name a few, who I'd be just as thrilled for their best-selling-of-all-time, multiple-Rita-wins success.

Then I started thinking about other writers I knew. Published. Unpublished. Ones who novels I didn't like. Ones who said things that hurt me or that I found offensive. And I found it harder and harder to say that prayer. I wasn't willing to give up my ever selling a manuscript in exchange for their best-selling-of-all-time staus. That's when I knew the core motivation of my heart was selfishness. I wanted a share of God's glory.

Ouch.

I really want to delete this post.  In fact, I don't want to share what I've just written because I feel as if I'm glorifying myself in being this open. So I'm gonna sit here for a few moments and wait for God to tell me it's okay to delete this post. See, I did what He asked me to and, like Abraham, being willing to is enough. Any minute now. Still waiting. And now my makeup is all ruined, which means I'm gonna have to wash my face, which means I won't wake up, look in the mirror, forget I still have makeup on, and think, "Wow, I look better than I remembered."

You must be willing to pray, "O God, answer with me or without me or apart from me. But please answer, God. Glorify Thyself in our midst. Send out missionaries, Lord. But if You want to send out two more from another church than You do from mine, I'm satisfied. Send revival, Lord, but if You want to bless the church across the city and not mine, okay. If You want to use me, all right, but if not, I'll back the man You do use. I'll love him; I won't be jealous; I'll pray for him; and I'll work behind the scenes; and I'll do my deal-level best, unseen to do what I can do.

If it's the glory of God we want to see restored/honored/uplifted, then we won't care if we have any part in it or not.

Maybe my job--maybe your job--isn't to be Moses. Maybe we're to be Joshua or Caleb holding up Moses' arms. Can you honestly be okay with that? Even if that annoying, arrogant, elitist, etc., author in one of your writing groups is God's chosen Moses.

If you really want God to bless  and to bring honor to Himself, then you have to be satisfied for God to use somebody else to do it.

QUESTION OF THE DAY: How do you deal with jealousy toward fellow writers or co-workers or classmates?

16 comments:

  1. Gina, I admire your honesty as always. I think all we can do is pray AND realize that as long as we can recognize these things in ourselves and feel remorse, we're doing okay. God is merciful and gives us grace; we need to do it too.

    We all want recognition, unfortunately, and some either hide it better or have truly shaken most of it off. I'm trying to think of a good example for myself--not that I haven't done this but that I tend to tuck that stuff behind the door where I don't have to face it.

    A lot of times I honestly don't want recognition, but I've tasted that sour tang of jealousy and hung out with 'sister spite'. Spite is really ugly, isn't she?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Bless your heart, Gina. Exposing the inner motives of our hearts is scary and difficult, but it brings such peace.
    Thank you for sharing... and yes, I've been there, too, with writing, with the church, with other ministers' wives, etc. Sometimes it sneaks up on me and sometimes it slaps me in the face. Honesty is the only thing that knocks it back down.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Oh, Gina, this whole writing path really messes with our heads, doesn't it! I'm usually not a jealous person, but I do struggle with this too. If nothing else, when I hear someone makes a sale, a little tally mark registers in my head, "That's one less publishing slot left in 2011."

    When I was in college and thinking about acting, the professor said if you can think of any other job you'd be happy with, don't be an actor. So what do I pick? Writing!!! Well, let me tell you, actors only wait days for cast lists, we wait months for rejections. No wonder we get screwed up.

    As to what to do about it, I've tried to take Laurie Alice Eakes's approach. I know that one of my gifts is teaching, so I try to spend time teaching new writers. A part of me says I'm crazy, what if I help them and they get published and I don't, but I try to tell that part to shut up and do what I know is right.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks for sharing this with us, Gina. It's so difficult to be real and transparent and honest, but I'm so glad you did. You hit me where I needed it and when I read Tozer's "serpent of self" comment, I gulped.

    I've wondered all along whether or not I write for God's glory. I want to, I try to, I say I do (because HE puts these crazy stories and characters in my head!) but I know I'm a sinner who has a tendency to twist everything good into something broken. I do rejoice with my friends who write pure gold, who get published, who receive raves. But sometimes I feel bummed, too.

    One thing God has taught me repeatedly on this writing journey is if I ever get published, it will be because of Him. It will have nothing whatsoever to do with me, except perhaps for my frail obedience. But I must be obedient because it's right, not because it bears the fruit I want it to bear (publication). I pray He's glorified in my obedience.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Oh, honey, this is the NUMBER ONE problem I deal with, and I've said it a million times that if I could lobotomize the part of my writer's brain that focuses on books sales, contest wins and Amazon ratings, I would be one happy author. BUT ... as you and the other Inkies have implied, this is a human condition, as natural as breathing, so don't beat yourself up too much, please!! After all, King David is the only one in the Bible God referred to as a "man after his own heart," and nobody stepped off the path more than him for his own glory and desires instead of God's.

    The way I deal with jealousy over other authors is to keep a list of those people in my Bible and pray for God to bless them. I wrote two whole Seeker blogs about how I prayed for Julie Klaasen to go to the bestseller list when we were both debut authors at the same because her numbers were better than mine on Amazon. We are now the best of friends although ... ahem ... I did tweak her about the fact that she obviously hasn't been praying the same prayer for me ... :)

    Anyway, loved the is post, love your honesty and LOVE you!

    Hugs,
    Julie

    ReplyDelete
  6. Oh, Deb, spite is ugly. Especially when we don't recognize her as such. At the last church we served in, the pastor's wife went around telling people "I'm praying you will so what you reap."

    Only her prayer wasn't...well, her motivation wasn't to bring blessing to that person. She wanted to bring curses upon them because she thought they were sowing negative seeds.

    Would she have ever said her motive was Spite? Doubtful.

    What about when our football team is in a tough game and a star player on the other team is injured. Do we rejoice because him being out of the game increases our team's odds of winning? Or do we secretly rejoice that he's out of the game, while vocally saying "I hope he's okay?"

    Hmm.

    Spite is sneaky.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Niki, you're so right about the benefits of honesty. We all have sins we don't want to admit to, and shame of confessing puts us in bondage. Yet how many times do we reason, "Oh I can still control this?"

    Honesty is painful.

    Bondage destroys.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Susanne, since I read that passage in Tozer's sermon, I done a lot of asking God to show me my true heart. Trust me, I have at least two more blog posts to share about things I've learned because God somehow landed this book in my house. Wonder who gave it to my husband?

    Thank you for reminding me I'm not the only one who struggles with the serpant of self.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Julie, sweets, you are a role-model to me. Sometimes I just can't relate to King David. But I can relate to you.

    Thanks for being real and open...and for reminding me that I need to pray for God to bless my fellow authors. Especially ones who I don't easily admit I want God to bless. That's the only way to kill the serpent of self.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Passion runs wild in sports and writing!

    Great post Gina. I love how you lay it out there!!

    I have had my jealous moments...okay days... really hate them, so draining on my time and creativity... not to mention the ugliness of it's imprint on my face. Not a good look for me.

    So, I take my naughty self and lab (she's always naughty) for a walk and about half way through, after the giant hill, I usually start to cry because that's when I start talking to Jesus. Usually, some hurt from my accumulated past has triggered the feelings of jealousy or anger etc. in the first place. Jesus reassures me that he loves me and he gets that my feelings (though often irrational) are real. He doesn't let me off the hook, but when I see how uniquely special I am to him, it takes the pressure off. I feel better.

    I admire all of you for your dedication to writing cool books and I love catching a glimpse of the true authors that you all are.

    Blessings!!

    ReplyDelete
  11. ...jealous moments and their ugly imprint on our faces...

    Yep, you described it accurately.

    Good point about Jesus not letting us off the hook. Sometimes, though, I really wish He would. Then I return to sanity.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Gina, I'm trying to remember if I sent you that email about the Barbour anthologies before or after you wrote this. Because that's how I felt when I heard about your participation. I am so thrilled for you. But then that little voice of doubt crept in. :(

    But I've read your work and know you are deserving. And I can picture you lying on your barge, eating grapes, with all your books propped up against your divan. LOL But please, don't make me wave the wide fronds over your head. I might accidently drop it on your noggin. Haha.

    Seriously, it's a wonderful and heartfelt post. Thank you.

    Anita Mae.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Thanks for the transparency, Gina. Dina, I'm with you even when I'm happy for other author friends' success, the tally is kept. One less slot for me. And then I'm like Rachel with Jacob, "Give me children else I die." Only it's, "Lord, give me a book contract else I die."

    I think God wants to give us the desires of our hearts, but not until we're ready. Not until we can handle success as well as failure.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Gina, what a beautiful post. I can so relate with that mixed bag of emotions--happy for the person yet worried about my own success.

    When I start to worry about things that are, ultimately, out of my control, one thing I try to do is remind myself what really matters. Is my family healthy? Are they happy? Is my home a peaceful place (even if it is a cluttered mess!)? :) Do I have friends to love, food to eat, a warm place to sleep? Do I acknowledge God's love and forgiveness? Do I show that love to others?

    When I'm envious, I try to look again at priorities. And I ask God to gently remind me of what's ultimately important.

    Now I'm hoping I just made at least a little sense. It's after 2 am and I should be in bed!

    BTW, thank you for your sweet comment about me.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Great post. I could have written this, especially two years ago, and still... It's something I have to keep constantly in prayer, and I pray for other authors often, for the ones who are friends, whom I want to be successful, and for those who sometimes drive me crazy. Often especially for a few who have hurt me.

    It's an odd business in which we help one another, yet in which envy can rear it's head far too easily. But two years ago, after working on my heart for a long time, I could finally answer a question Cynthia Ruchtie asked me at the 2005 ACFW conference--If you knew you were only here to bless someone else, would you still have come?

    I had no answer. It took a lot of breaking of my spirit before I could say, Yes. I could say I'm going to impart my knowledge and insight regarding writing, my ability to encourage, even if it means I never get another contract. That was scary to pray. I still have to pray it. This is too fragile, fickle, unpredictable a business not to remind oneself that God has a perfect plan, and it may not include our words in print.

    And don't say that's easy for me to say with my booklist. All too easily, I know it can fall apart. I've seen it happen to authors--brilliant careers crumble because of a mistake, an illness, a publisher shakeup, or the economy. Some authors do everything right and their numbers aren't there. The next contract doesn't come...

    One thing I do pretty much every day is surrender my writing to the Lord. I can't control a thing except for my own heart and attitude.

    But you can control whom you're friends with. Ehem, as a former Hokey, I have to say you need friends with better taste. Cheering for UVA indeed!

    ReplyDelete
  16. Laurie Alice, I don't know if you saw, but I referenced you as my inspiration for this. I've taken two local authors who are new in their careers under my wing lately. And although, yes a part of me says, "What if they get published first," seeing a light go on in their eyes or a big improvement in their writing actually makes me feel like I'm doing something worthwhile with my time and not just spinning my wheels as I await that first contract. I also taught a writing class at my church this summer and that really gave me a lot of joy.

    ReplyDelete