When I moved from Massachusetts to Nebraska in 2001, I found gargantuan grasshoppers and looming grain elevators. I also found God. Now I’m raising two rambunctious boys with my husband, Brad, working part-time for Nebraska public television and radio, laundering Sponge Bob briefs, and writing about faith in the everyday at Graceful. And I’m so very grateful to be here at Emily’s place today!
Fifteen years ago my husband Brad and I backpacked through part of Yellowstone National Park. I’d reluctantly agreed to this adventure, knowing that Old Faithful Inn – or any place with plumbing, for that matter – suited me better. A 25-pound pack and a two-man tent pitched on pinecone ground were not my idea of a vacation. But I agreed, largely because I was newly married and very much in the compromise stage.
We hiked through a barren landscape, charred husks of birch and pine standing like totems, the ground prickly with new-growth brush. A rampant forest fire had ravaged Yellowstone a few years prior, and the burned landscape was still stark and desolate like a moonscape.
As morning turned to noon the sun seared sharp. Pack straps burned ruts into shoulders, hair stuck to nape, boots chafed blisters, and I grew crankier with each mile, weary of the sooty landscape. As we rounded each rise I expected to glimpse our final destination, a campsite nestled beside a glinting lake in a valley below.
But it didn’t happen. Instead, at the crest of each hill I saw only another rise ahead, hope of shade and cool water crashing as one false summit gave way to the next.
“I want to be there now,” I complained mercilessly to Brad. “How much further? When are we going to see the campsite? Why are there so many hills? This is horrible!” I continued. “This isn’t what I expected at all! I’m not having fun!”
Brad was remarkably patient, especially given that instead of chortling songbirds and burbling brooks, all he heard was the relentless griping of a grumpy wife.
“We’re going to get there, honey,” he soothed. “Just try to enjoy the hike.”
I thought about that Yellowstone hike recently as I found myself bemoaning the writing process, the uphill climb toward publishing. The similarities between hiking and writing are not lost on me.
There’s the relentless grind, for starters. Writing requires discipline, which means I write when I’d rather be sipping Chardonnay on the back patio or browsing for a new purse at TJ Maxx. The process isn’t graceful as I grunt out choppy phrases that fall flat, or circle an idea round and round, unable to nail it down. Writing is work, putting one foot in front of the other – one word after the other – and staying on the trail for the long haul.
And then there’s the finish line, the final destination. I want to rush the process. I want to be there now – there being a published writer. I don’t want to face yet another mountain, another false summit – the research, the rejection, the writing and more writing, the hope followed by crashing defeat. I don’t want to hope for sparkling lake, only to find desiccated emptiness once again.
“How much further?” I whine to myself. “When am I going to get there? This isn’t what I expected at all!”
The Bible tells me a lot about time and process, planning and controlling – about how God’s timeline may be different from mine: “You don’t get to know the time. Timing is the Father’s business,” Jesus tells the disciples, when they clamor to know when the kingdom will be restored (Acts 1:7).
Honestly, this isn’t what I want to hear. I want to control the process; I want to create the timeline. Often I don’t want to heed God’s plans for me, because I fear they differ from what I might have in mind for myself.
There’s much for me to learn about what God wants with my words. Perhaps it’s not about publishing at all. Perhaps it’s about this present hike – this climbing and seeking. I admit, the pack feels heavy at times; I am weary. But God tells me he wants to lighten my load. I simply need to hand over the burden.
“Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul. Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.” Psalm 143:8, 10
**I know I say this with every guest post, but seriously. Visit Michelle at Graceful, because every word of hers is just that. I love her vivid descriptions, her regular-girl perspective, and her growing heart for filling the hole.