by Emily Conrad
Atonement is the word of the day on September 30th, not by my choice, but because that’s the word Dictionary.com chose to email to its word of the day subscribers. I’d signed up only a couple of days before.
When I see atonement in my inbox and leave it, a pin in a thought that’s bowled me over and demands closer examination.
It all started the day before with a simple assignment from Christina Hubbard of the blog Creative and Free. In October, writers celebrate 31 days of writing, and for her part, Christina went out and invited 31 creatives to join her on her blog with the mission of encouraging other creatives. She offered some prompts, the first of which was to share insight to bolster and heal when we feel like we aren’t enough.
On September 29th, when I sat at my laptop to put together my 3-4 sentence response, I was emotionally pretty normal-okay. I put my fingers to the keys without thinking too hard and let two sentences rise:
There are days when I am certain the words I write reek of my imperfections. I look at them and wonder how God could ever use such a tainted offering.
And just like that, I had myself in tears.
This is not normal for me. I’ve heard other novelists cry when they write sad scenes, but I don’t think I ever have. In my non-fiction, should I write something about myself, something so true it prompts tears, it’s usually in my journal, and not for a blog. But this assignment was specifically for sharing, and hey, the assignment said to be vulnerable.
Until that moment, I hadn’t realized my fear of not being enough went so deep. I decided I had to stop to investigate, I had to finish the assignment. Maybe I wouldn’t be ready to share the result, maybe I’d have to start over, but I had to watch it play out on the page. So, I continued.
The trouble with writing is no amount of revision can edit the human out of the process. Scripture is God-breathed and infallible, but blog posts, short stories, and novels are not. I never thought much about it, but as I prepare to launch my first novel, I’m sobered by the realization that my humanity is spilled all over the pages for all to see, read, weigh, rate, review, believe, or debate.
Any endeavor is the same. Our lives are visible to others. They see, weigh, form opinions about us and base beliefs on us.
It’s daunting to claim to be a Christian in this world. It’s daunting to serve a perfect God when even our best efforts are imperfect. No matter how hard we work to be perfect, to perform perfectly in honor of God, we fall short.
But we are not the first with this problem.
Reminded of this, I did manage to finish the assignment, finding comfort for myself and what I hope is comfort for you, too. The post goes live at 10AM 10/3 here but if you happen upon this earlier than that, you can still hop over and peruse the other posts here. They are so worthwhile.
The assignment was to write 3-4 sentences. The Gettysburg address on not-enough-ness.
I’m not really such a succinct writer, hence the novels. Hence this blog post.
Even after completing my assignment, I had more exploring to do, and I believe God wanted to see that happen because the next day, the word atonement landed in my inbox.
When fears of not being enough strike me, it’s because I’ve decided it all depends on my performance.
It doesn’t. And it doesn’t depend on yours, either.
Atonement reminds us of this. Jesus’s performance covers ours. He works all things together for our good.
And do you know what this Jesus did to treat those tears of mine?
He emailed me about atonement.
He drew a discussion about Jonah in a class at church on Sunday toward the truth that even when we are willfully disobedient, He can still use us to draw people to Himself. How much more so when our heart is to please Him? We may still be imperfectly human, but God is perfectly divine. Perfectly in control. Perfectly able to use those He calls to write and lead and serve and care in each and every way He calls them to do all those things.
He invited me to read the second chapter of Unseen by Sara Hagerty (affiliate link). I’d liked the first chapter enough to tell my sister about it, but I’d let other projects get in the way of reading more. Then I was gifted with a little time to myself and decided to use it on the book. Hagerty wrote of how her adopted children tend to work hard to be perfect, lest they lose their place in the family. The chapter told the story of one of her daughters, who “was breaking free form the lie that many of us believe: performance earns our keep.” (pg 44) Haggerty speaks of her daughter and of Mary and Martha to illustrate the truth: our keep was earned by Jesus on the cross, and the best response is to spend our time not on striving harder, but on sitting at His feet.
He led another writer friend of mine, Jerusha Agen, to also write about not being enough in an insightful post that landed in my inbox on October 2nd.
Why has He done all this for me? I’m still me, flaws and all, so it’s nothing I’ve done. He rescues me because, while I’ve never been enough, He is more than enough. He, and not my performance, is my only hope.
I’ve read that our eternity with God begins not in heaven, but at the moment we first believe. As I see Him orchestrating so much to speak to this issue in my heart, I see this is true. I see that even now, God is wiping the tears from my eyes in a kind of heaven on earth.
What will He do next? I have no idea, but I’m keeping an eye on my inbox, an ear open to conversations, a mind open to reading and to writing prompts. We serve a God who is living and active, who hears and responds to the cries of His children, who is enough. More than enough.
Photos in this post by Felix Russell-Saw on Unsplash
Thank you SO MUCH for this post, Emily! I was feeling just this morning how all my efforts to serve God and live for Him are so . . . inadequate. I want so much to aim for perfection, but I have to deal instead with the reality that I am so weak and sinful — so much less than perfect. It's a comfort that God is enough — rather, that He is MORE than enough — and that Christ's perfect righteousness covers all our ugly sin and imperfections. Truly, His strength is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). Praise God!
Thank you again, Emily. May God richly bless you!
It's a blessing to know this was a blessing to someone else, too! 2 Cor 12:9 does fit perfectly. Thank you for joining the conversation!
I love this Emily it's such a good reminder. I think it's something God wants me to hear too. I just read this sermon from Matt Chandler last night. https://www.tvcresources.net/resource-library/sermons/marked-by-god It's all about how society puts expectations on us that God doesn't and reminds Christian's who we are.
I'll have to check it out! Thanks for sharing that!
Terrific post, Emily! Gave me goosebumps with this powerful reminder of the wonderful, merciful, perfect God we serve. And thanks for linking to my blog!
You're very welcome for the link. Thanks for being one of the voices of truth God used as I dove into dealing with this issue!
Guess it struck a nerve? 🙂 I had been writing in my memoir notebook about this too, and it's wasn't pretty. Glad we're doing this important work together!
This kind of thing is so much better with friends! So enjoying your series, Christina! Thank you for inviting me to be a part!
Oh yes. I was just here too. I know this spot well. When I saw Christina share her series I about popped out of my chair. She writes about what I struggle with, am writing about too. Whew! Thanks for sharing your heart here, Emily.
She just gets us, doesn't she? 😉 So grateful for her series and for God, who's working on all of us. Writing brings us together in such wonderful ways. Thanks for stopping by today, Meg!