I know what if feels like to hold myself back from a relationship. I often did it when I knew a friend would be moving away or changing schools or we’d be leaving when summer camp week ended. I’d distance myself, keep the other person at arms length in hopes that I wouldn’t feel the separation so intensely.
For the past decade or so I’ve recognized this tendency and made a conscious effort, by the grace of God, to remain engaged in spite of impending change. But just like so many times when I conquer the foe of self, it rises back up again in a little different form, subtle enough to confuse me into ignoring the root issue.
Last week I realized I’d been shutting off my heart to new characters. I’ve been afraid of them, somehow. Afraid they’ll hurt me by not having a story compelling enough to attract my editor’s attention. Now I know some of you are rolling your eyes and muttering, “But those aren’t real people! Give me a break!” But you see, those characters—and their stories—are the way God has wired me to connect both with Him and with other people. So when I hold myself distant from my characters, I essentially hold myself distant from the Lord. I cut myself off from the creative flow He has designed me to carry. When I don’t let these characters into my heart, I can’t learn from them. Nor can others.
In the eleven months leading up to my first contract, I prayed to hold this journey of publication loosely, to not grasp after it but just to follow as the Lord leads. But refusing to embrace the pain of possible rejection of a character I’ve come to love is just as bad and trying to make something happen in my own power. Both are an assertion of my control versus God’s control. Which brings it all back around to those real people I distanced myself from. I wanted to control the amount of pain I felt at losing their friendship or even just their presence in my life. And once again, that phantom self has to die.
Have you dealt with an issue in your life that came back around in a different form and surprised you?