Surrender the Sword

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If you don’t surrender the sword, you’ll never see what happens when God fights for you.

One of my most prized possessions is a sword replica that I have hanging on my bedroom wall. If you get to know me at all, you’ll find out pretty quick that I have a thing for medieval weapons, especially swords (hey, what do you expect from a fantasy writer?).

When I first got it, I remember having a lot of trouble getting it out of the box, and at the time I joked that the box was designed to deter all but those worthy of wielding the sword. Needless to say, I persisted until I finally got the sword out, and ever since I’ve enjoyed pretending that it was a weapon I had to be worthy of.

This took on a bit of spiritual significance for me, too, because I tend to shy away from things that make me uncomfortable or nervous. I imagined facing the battles of life and having to have the strength to grasp the sword (a figurative sword now, although goodness knows there are times I wish I had my literal one with me) to face whatever is to come. My decorative sword became a symbol of bravery for me.

That’s all well and good. But one night recently I was feeling pretty broken and weary. I took my sword down from its wall mount and laid it on my mattress as I knelt by my bed to pray. “I’m not worthy of it,” I told God. “I don’t have the strength for this fight. The sword is too heavy for me to wield.”

In that moment I realized: the sword was never mine to wield. Yes, by the grace of God, I have to be brave enough to step up to the battles when they come. But the One who wins the victory, who does the fighting, who wields the sword, is God. If I do it, I will surely lose every time, like a child trying to swing her father’s sword against an enemy and not even being able to lift it. But if I hand the sword over to God and let Him fight for me, victory is always the result, even if it doesn’t look the way I expect.

I’ve always loved this little section from Exodus where Moses admonishes the Israelites to trust in God: “Moses answered the people, ‘Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still'” (Exodus 14:13-14, NIV).

Surrender the sword to God. And then be amazed when you see what He can do. I can’t wait to see the results in my own life. Don’t you feel free without that heavy sword weighing you down?

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My Right Hand

“For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, ‘Fear not, I am the one who helps you.'”

– Isaiah 41:13, ESV

Every Christian has their “big” struggles, the temptations and sins that challenge them more than some others. Two of mine are fear and control – or, in other words, I feel afraid (to the point of panic) when I don’t feel in control. I hate uncertainty and always want to know exactly what to expect¬† and what to do in each situation.

As you may have noticed, life doesn’t usually fit into this neat little box known as my comfort zone – and, in order to be a healthy Christian, I don’t think it’s supposed to. After all, why would we need to trust God if we never got stretched beyond our trust in ourselves?

The above verse from Isaiah has been one of my favorites for a long time. In those many moments when I feel overwhelmed, this verse reminds me that God’s got this, whatever “this” may be at the time. But tonight as I prayed about some issues that have been troubling me, the Lord brought this verse to my mind and I saw a new angle to it that I had never noticed.

In the Bible, the right hand is often used not just literally but as a figurative symbol for strength, for capability, for control (see Exodus 15:6 for an example). Too often, my right hand is busy trying to take care of my life and make everything go the way I want it to. Sometimes I feel as if I’m attempting to hold together the cosmos and force them to spin in the direction that keeps me feeling safe – which is most definitely not my job (no wonder I feel stressed so often).

But if God holds my right hand, I can’t be exerting my own strength or control. I become entirely dependent on Him, the One whose right hand is completely and abundantly sufficient for everything I could ever encounter. And once God has stilled my too-busy right hand in His grasp, He uses His own to take care of all those things that I was so worried about – and more.

I don’t know if this post hit home for you, but whether or not you’ve ever struggled with this issue, I hope you’ll take this away from it: God is all-powerful, but He never violates our free will. Only when we surrender to Him can He get to work in our lives the way He desires to. Join me today in holding out your right hand to Him and letting Him take hold of it. Let Him put an end to your work so that His can begin. Blessed be the name of the Lord!

Publication Is Everything…Right?

As I’ve mentioned in a couple other places on this site, this year (2016) saw the appearance of my very first publication, a rhetorical analysis article called “One World to Rule Them All” (if you’d like to know more, check out the My Publications tab).

Like most aspiring authors, I thought being published would mean everything. I used to imagine receiving a proof copy of my first novel in the mail (because of course, my first publication would be a bestselling novel, not a lowly research article) and being so overcome that I would cry as I held it (even though I rarely cry). Neither of these things happened – and yet, I wouldn’t trade my experience for anything.

First of all, the more I’ve learned about writing and publication, the more I’ve come to realize that expecting your very first publication to be a novel, especially a bestselling one, is a bit too ambitious. Sure, miracles happen, but the truth is that becoming an author involves a lot of hard work and, at first, dedication to small projects. Agents and publishers who work with novelists want to know that you, the newcomer, have some experience and credibility in the writing world, so it’s important to have a respectable list (around four to six) of published pieces before you approach them. It doesn’t always have to happen this way, but it sure helps you get a foot in the door.

Remembering how I used to feel about publishing, I’m sure that’s not the news you wanted to hear. I totally get that. Publication is the big shiny goal we all want to get to; it’s what we regard as the ultimate success. Growing up, I had all kinds of plans for getting published, none of which panned out. But this little article was the one I didn’t plan, and it’s the one that ended up being my first publication. It actually started as an assignment for one of my college classes, and through the guidance and encouragement of an awesome professor, I was able to submit it to the Young Scholars in Writing journal.

So how did it feel? I’ll be honest with you: the moment of acceptance was the high point for me, not the day I saw my essay in print. Getting accepted for publication meant all my work had actually produced fruit and IT WAS GOING TO BE PUBLISHED!! The memory still excites me, as you can tell.

After acceptance, though, I still had a really long road ahead of me. The next few months were spent editing my essay, with the help of my professor and the editors of the journal. It was a LONG process (did I mention long?) and at some points I thought it would never actually be finished and published. In fact, there were moments when I could barely stand the sight of my essay, I was so tired of editing it. When I finally received my contributor’s copy of the journal in the mail, it had been about a year and a half since I first began writing it for class.

Don’t get me wrong, I was completely psyched to get my copy of the journal and read my essay, author name, and bio in official print. But my predominant emotion was relief – all the loose ends were tied up and my work was finally done. I could move on to other writing projects knowing this one was complete. I could treasure the finished product instead of obsessing over a work-in-progress.

So what is my bottom line here? Publication is awesome, but it isn’t everything. First and foremost, your satisfaction should come from the writing itself, because if you don’t absolutely LOVE writing – if you don’t wake up in the middle of the night thinking of plot elements or freak out because you just got the best character idea – you probably don’t want to pursue publication, because it’s a long road that only love of your craft (and the grace of God) will carry you through. But if you love what you do, no amount of rejection can ever take that away from you.

It’s absolutely thrilling to be accepted for publication, and I really hope you’ll know this feeling someday soon. I hope I’ll know that feeling again very soon. Just remember to enjoy it all: the concepts, the writing, the editing (be careful not to pull your hair out), the acceptance, and at long last, the publication.

Thanks for reading! God bless y’all.