The last month or so has been pretty rough. I haven’t posted anything on Facebook because, well, I haven’t been writing much in the nonfiction department. I can’t remember which week it was, but right around the fourth or fifth week of school I was challenged with a question I’ve never received before in my entire life.
I’m taking Creative Writing 340, Intermediate Fiction, and it’s been… interesting, to say the least. I took the intro class two years back and received pretty decent grades. I think I made out with an A by the end of the term and since then I haven’t felt that bad about my abilities to make stuff up. My first story for this year’s creative writing class received a big fat C-/D, which was kind of a flat tire to the self-esteem. I read through my professor’s comments and I could see where all my mistakes were in plain view. I realized I should have taken more time and energy into making the story better. To learn how to do that, though, I decided to meet with this professor, you know, to see if she had some tips or whatnot. Barely two minutes into the meeting, she asked me this question: “Do you think you belong in school?”
At the time, I simply shook it off and said that I didn’t have any other option than school. But maybe twenty minutes after the conversation, I started to get a little mad and even defensive over it. It really seemed to me that the professor might have been out of line with the question and I really wanted to take my story to another creative writing professor to see what they thought of it. Wisdom, however, has taught me to not make rash decisions, especially out of anger. I talked with friends, a pastor, and I prayed a lot about it and I am quite certain she did not intend any tone of condescension. In fact, I think this was a wake-up call; not to tell me I should give up on fictional writing, but rather to make me commit more of myself to it.
The words in the question, though, have still lingered. I went to CCF tonight and listened to Corey Rose talk about James 3:1-12, where James goes off about taming the tongue. It was a good and very practical message. Somewhere in the middle of the message, Corey talked about how we, as humans, have the tendency to hang onto words said to us that either hurt us or made us so angry we wanted to get some kind of revenge. I think my professor’s words in her question to me several weeks ago fits into both categories. On one hand, I got a little roughed up and on the other I wanted to react to prove her wrong. I wanted to work hard to get a better grade, write better stories, and to prove to her that I do belong in school. I wanted to be right. But, as I’ve learned over the last week or so, Jesus doesn’t want me to be right; He wants me to be humble and awake.
This writing ability isn’t something I’ve created for myself; it was something given to me. In order to steward it well, in order to steward it in a Godly manner, I have to use it with reverence and humility. I’m not the best writer out there and I’m quite sure I won’t ever be. Why? Because this isn’t about me; it’s about Jesus. I have such a passion about writing because I’ve had such a passion about Jesus and this is where I share it. He wants me to be aware of the necessity to be humble and awake to the work it’s going to require of me.
My professor’s question, do I belong in school, has an obvious answer: yes, this is where I learn how to be a better writer, a better friend, and a better ambassador of Jesus. But recently, maybe in the last four or five days, this question as evolved: why do I belong in school? For some reason, I’m not satisfied with being a better writer, a better friend and a better Christian. I feel there’s another answer, a destiny looming somewhere in my future that is the real reason why I’m here. And then came another question.
Last night I watched The Patriot by Mel Gibson. It’s one of my favorite movies because it has a lot going on. One of the things I thought about while watching this, though, was what this movie was about: the Revolutionary War. There is something the main character’s son, Gabriel, says in a letter that really stood out to me. He asked for the family to pray for him while he was away at war, but above all else, even above his life, he asked them to pray for the cause – the thing he fought for.
As I closed my laptop, pulled the covers open on my bed, and reached for my Bible for some Proverbs, I thought about this idea of fighting for something above myself. The men in the time of the Revolutionary War had something major to physically fight for: a nation of their own. The men in the time the movie Braveheart is set in had the same thing to fight for. Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi both had causes above them to fight for. My question last night, as I sat on the side of my bed with my Bible in hand, was: what am I fighting for? What cause in our time today is the equivalent to the Revolutionary War?
In answering this question, I immediately thought of the Iraqi war and this seemingly-endless war on terrorism. But I don’t think those are it. I don’t think those are the main causes to fight for in our world today. As a follower of Jesus, I realize fighting for causes does not have to take guns, bombs and bloody warfare. That’s why Jesus came as a lowly servant and willingly accepted the unjust death sentence of the cross. He came to prove our fights don’t have to be physical. I can’t say the Revolutionary War was a cause that needed violence; that’s just what it came to. In our day, though, there seems to be a war of a different kind going on.
On a daily basis I hear the bullets grazing the pavement at my feet and the bombshells dropping in the distance. The war we, as followers of Jesus, are called to fight is a war not fought on some distant battlefield; it’s a war within ourselves. We’re called to fight against addiction and insecurity; to fight against injustice and poverty; to fight against hopelessness and depression; to stand in defense of orphans and widows; and to dismantle the strongholds of temptations and sin not with anything of our own making, but with the power of God, the love of Jesus Christ. This is what defines us as His disciples, by the love that we show for each other and for non-Christians as well.
Why am I in school? I’m in school to learn the depths of pain suffered by all the things I’m called to fight against. I learn how deep the pain goes so I know how deep to reach in order to help. I’m not saying I’m going to plunge into all sorts of sin just to experience it all. No, I’ve learned enough by what I’ve already gone through to know the effects of sin. What I don’t know is how deep the pain of sin might run for someone else. In college, I’ve met many people who have suffered far more pain than I could ever bear and yet they have not heard about Christ. They’ve survived their pain, but they have not yet received healing. My fight, why I’m in school, is to learn how to help them and others like them to find that healing, to find Jesus. “For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies,” (Romans 8:22-23). What we have found (and are still finding) in Jesus is the very thing humanity longs for. Our fight, the cause of our generation, is to deliver this, to offer it to the hurting people in our world (our neighbors and ourselves). This demands three essentials: humility, hard work, and Jesus.