by Emily Conrad
We live on a pretty well-populated planet. Whatever any of us do, there’s someone else doing something similar, and chances are, we don’t need to go all that far to find them.
This is both good and bad.
We experience camaraderie and support when we spend time with those who face similar struggles and experiences. This is why there are moms groups and fishing buddies and dog training classes and business associations.
In my life, I’m super-happy to have a couple of local writing friends. We all write sufficiently different stories, and we see each other’s ups and downs, so jealousy and competition is at a low. We’re here for each other.
But then I’m challenged to find stories that are like mine in order to talk intelligently with industry professionals about my place in the market.
So, I read books of writers I don’t know, looking for novels like my own.
I find them. This is a bit of a relief—Yay! I’m not the only one who likes this kind of story, and I have published proof!
But it’s also a problem. Because, hey, I’m not the only person who likes this kind of story, and I’m certainly not the first to write one.
When I see how other people portray similar circumstances to those my characters face, they do so differently, and I begin to wonder if they’ve got it right and I’m all wrong.
Maybe my heroes are just too unrealistic.
Maybe my research was insufficient.
Maybe my ideas are cliché.
And though those randomly floating doubts don’t often crystallize into solid discouragement, they do coat my thinking in the suspicion that I’m less-than. On a bad day, I can feel completely superfluous.
That is the bad, and writers aren’t the only one to face the dilemma. Since there’s nothing new under the sun, we’re in good company when we wonder if maybe we’re not entirely, 100% necessary.
In fact, I suspect none other than Queen Esther herself felt this way.
Look at her wording when she tells Mordecai she can’t go to the king on behalf of the Jews.
“Any man or woman who comes uninvited to the king in the inner court – that person will be put to death, unless the king extends to him the gold scepter, permitting him to be spared. Now I have not been invited to come to the king for some thirty days!” (from Esther 4:11, NET)
Do you hear it? The thoughts saying, He’ll just as easily kill me as talk to me. I’m dispensable.
Mordecai refuted Esther’s discouragement with a truth that is possibly the most quotable phrase from Esther’s account: “It may very well be that you have achieved royal status for such a time as this!” (from Esther 4:14, NET)
His words drip with a truth I see elsewhere in Scripture, too. God sees each of us, and He has a purpose and a plan for each of us. None of us is superfluous–not Hagar crying in the wilderness, not Gideon hiding in a winepress, not David tending sheep.
I love Isaiah 49 for this reason, too. The prophet knows he’s been called by God. He still struggles, wondering if his work amounts to anything, but ultimately declares his faith:
Listen to me, you coastlands!
Pay attention, you people who live far away!
The Lord summoned me from birth;
he commissioned me when my mother brought me into the world.
He said to me, “You are my servant,
Israel, through whom I will reveal my splendor.”
But I thought, “I have worked in vain;
I have expended my energy for absolutely nothing.”
But the Lord will vindicate me;
my God will reward me.
(Isaiah 49:1, 3-4, NET)
Maybe not all of us have that moment where we realize why we are where we are, doing what we do, but God very specifically sees and uses individuals throughout the Bible. Even individuals who feel less-than, hidden, and superfluous. Those feelings and doubts don’t change the truth: none of us are superfluous to Jesus.
He wouldn’t have gone to the trouble of creating us if He didn’t want us here for this time and this place. He has a plan for the good of those who follow Him. He’s cheering for us as we answer His calling.
Community Instead of Competition
I have to believe Jesus is cheering for us to cheer for each other and not just ourselves. We need to see others as part of our community instead of as competition.
One way to do this is to remember that there’s always more to the story.
Earlier this year, I read a memoir. The writer landed her first big book contract during the course of the book, and she ended up traveling internationally to promote it. She bought a house with her earnings. And a car. She was living the dream.
But I’d never trade places with her, because the other areas of her life weren’t going so well. As she celebrated the book deal, she was fighting cancer, navigating a divorce, and wondering if her kids would ever have a reliable father figure.
I can look at a book on the shelf—or even read the words inside—without knowing what that author overcame to put it there.
I can look at someone else running a church committee so smoothly and not know the struggle it was to get dinner on the table before she came.
I can watch someone perform on stage and not know they suffer similar struggles with their music that I face in writing.
I can see someone’s big house and not know the long hours they put in at a job they barely tolerate to afford it.
And on and on.
If I knew, it’d help. Like I said, knowing my local writing friends’ journeys helps keep competition and jealousy low.
But God hasn’t given me that insight with every person I might peer at with envy. Instead, He tells me to mind my own business and let Him be God.
So when Peter saw him, he asked Jesus, “Lord, what about him?” Jesus replied, “If I want him to live until I come back, what concern is that of yours? You follow me!” (John 21:21-22,NET)
We’re to trust our Lord is directing each of our paths in His way, knowing what is absolutely good for each of us.
When we do this, being with like-minded people who excel at the very thing we dream of doing can empower us. Because of faith in God, we can support instead of compete against each other. We can learn from each other and grow together.
We live on a well-populated planet, yet God determines each of our steps. He knows each of our stories—the ones we put to paper and the ones we live out—and He has His beautiful reasons for each one.
Title image background photo by Sasha Freemind on Unsplash, designed on Canva.com
Women on swings photo by Bewakoof.com Official on Unsplash
Three women with sunset photo by Karl Magnuson on Unsplash
Walking the road photo by Michael Henry on Unsplash