You've often heard it said that you should quit while you're ahead. Ever notice how people only say that right after you've taken your first step backward?
Nobody quits when they feel like life is working for them. Nobody quits when they're racking up points. Nobody quits when they're ahead.
You quit...when you're a stupid head. Guilty.
Not as much these days, though still more often than I like, I am a person who is prone to discouragement. It's easy to look at this or that thing that you've tried to do, and it doesn't come together like it did in your head. Or the words you thought you had suddenly fall away from you while you're trying to write with the same power with which those words overcame you. Or you're looking back at something you know you used to be proud of, and it's not really your best work and it's not really anything. Maybe you know how it could be better, but suddenly, whatever fire you had behind it is doused and you don't want to make it better. You don't even trust that you could.
I've been a little in that place again lately, particularly with my book-in-progress, Prayse. The last chapter, while it worked so well in my head, did not translate to paper and screen as well as I had anticipated. I went with it anyway and pushed it into the draft pile because, well, I followed my rule of best, better, good and after weeks of wrestling with it, it was the best I could do without driving myself crazy. Then for weeks, I didn't write another word.
It's easy to make excuses, to say that life wrapped me up and there just wasn't time. I've had company and Christmas and church and a myriad of things that needed to be done, and it was easy to push my writing work aside for awhile. But the truth is that I've just been discouraged. I've been thinking about that last chapter, about how it fell short, about how it failed to live up to the quality I feel like I found in the other eleven chapters in my draft pile.
Thinking about those broken words made me question everything. Question why I was writing at all, since I didn't seem to be any good at it, nobody was going to read it, somebody had probably already said it, and it would just disappear in the Barnes & Noble (if it ever happened to make it that far) behind a stack of misplaced Fifty Shades of Greys. Writing is not paying the bills, and if I'm not going to be any good at it, if my gift is gone, then why drudge through one more word?
I also mentioned, however, that I've been reading Paul. And one of the things Paul insists is that people "Do not be discouraged." Don't let things get you down; there are greater things afoot, and if you spend your life ruing what isn't, you're going to ruin what is. There are a lot of contexts we could put this in, but it's those primary words - Do Not Be Discouraged - that matter.
Worldly wisdom says even when you think you can't, do it anyway. Fake it until you make it. That's not, however, what I think Paul is saying. Paul's admonition is bigger than that. Paul's advice is to take a moment, take a breath, and remember. Remember what it is that is in you, that makes you you, that is created in you. Remember what God is doing with that. And through that. And yes, in that. Remember what it is to touch that, and get back into it.
I always imagine this sort of thing as a ball in a halfpipe, rocking back and forth until it finds this place to settle. That's what Paul says when he says don't be discouraged. He says, ok. Maybe you're rocking around or even freefalling and you don't know where that niche is, but you know. You know what God has put in you. Let yourself nestle in that. Let yourself settle into that. It doesn't matter if you think you're good right now or if you're happy with the way it's going, get back into it and settle down. You know that is where you were meant to be.
And when you find that place, you know what? It feeds you. It reminds you of what you've tried to remember, that this is what God is doing in you. That you have something that was created for this, that this place has something for you, and that you have something to offer through this place. It's energizing.
Earlier this week, I stayed up late into the night writing Prayse. The newest chapter is coming along swell, and I can't wait for you to read it. (Later this week?) I'm excited about this work again. I'm humbled by the gracious God who gifted me to do it. I'm amazed at the way He finds these words to put in me and I somehow find a way to dig them back out to give them back. I'm just incredibly blown away by all that this is shaping up to be.
I may even one day be able to fix that last chapter to my liking.
But it's awesome to be in this place of renewal, this place of fresh energy. This place of settlement and trust and humility. It is one of the many blessings I am enjoying and have enjoyed in my twenty-seven years, one of the absolutely incredible, indescribable God-ordained moments I am honored to experience. The greatest breakthroughs, the best times happen right after you decide not to give up.
When you turn to Paul instead of the wisdom of this world and refuse to quit while you're a (stupid) head.