My sister-in-law once told me about how absolutely life-changing it is to drink coffee at night. “I stopped at Starbucks before bible study one time and got a latte at like, 7 pm and I don’t know…it just made me feel so alive.” We laughed. We talked about how much better every bible study would be if we all drank a cup of coffee beforehand. I used to drink coffee around 7 pm straight through college and it, too, made me feel alive–but at that time the alternative was feeling absolutely brain-fried running-on-adrenaline dead. We all know how that rush feels, the energy and adrenaline (most of us don’t get it from the first cup of coffee anymore, maybe the second or like, ninth). A lot of us depend on it to make it through the day.
I think there’s another kind of rush, too. The kind that gets us through life–the things, unique to each of us, that make us feel alive. The things we lose time doing, the things we chase, the things that just seem to click into place and make us think, “I was made to do this.”
There are only a few things like that for me, and writing is one of them. When I write I feel like I lose myself. I feel like I have all of these thoughts that didn’t make sense until I could see them written down. I feel like I can process more clearly than ever. I love watching words splash onto a page to convey something better on paper than it even seemed in my head.
I feel that way when I cook, too, when I chop crisp vegetables on a wood cutting board and watch them simmer and pop in a skillet. I feel that way when rock climb, when I can literally feel the blood pump through my veins, analyzing a hard route and asking my arms and legs to try harder than it feels like they can, feeling the validation as my muscles burn when I succeed. I feel that way when I engage with people, when I learn something new about someone and get a better understanding of who they are, how they’re wired, when I learn what they’re passionate about see their faces light up when they tell me about it.
That is not to say I am good at all of these things–if you know me well you know that is definitely not the case. Some of them I am actually truly bad at. I’ve learned to cook with a consistent success rate but I’ve made more inedible meals than I care to admit (just ask my college roommates). I’m a very average climber, falling off or giving up more often than I finish. I love to write but my sentences are usually too long and I have a big problem with commas. I try to be warm and generous to others but too often I come across cold and unwelcoming.
If we think we need to be really good at the things we’re passionate about in order to act on them we will always be trying and trying, never content. I’m learning to welcome this place of fragility, sharing things even if they aren’t perfect.
It seemed so natural to us when we were small: our God-given gifts are not to be squandered. And then we went to school and got jobs and got busy and played just one sport and got injured and didn’t really have time to sing in choir and got too nervous to speak up in class or in Bible study.
We think we need to be good enough to share our talents, we need to capitalize on our skills, we need to find purpose for our hobbies. We keep things buried away because someone else is better. But these gifts are from the Lord, and maybe they’re simply meant to bring glory to him even if we’re not the best or the fastest or the brightest.
Recently I was ashamed to realize that I was a writer who didn’t write. When I am routinely writing I am living well, I am seeing the things God wants me to see, I am opening up my heart to process and inviting him into my thoughts in a way that works so well for me. That doesn’t mean it isn’t scary, that I don’t worry about people liking what I write, that sometimes I’d rather put it off. But we shouldn’t be doing these things for the affirmation or the potential, we should do them because they’re an important part of who our Creator made us to be.
I don’t write for the sake of my reader, I write because of how it nourishes me. I pray and hope and cross my fingers that someone else will be moved by what I have written, but if that is my only goal I will always be disappointed. Surely my passions and abilities are meant to serve others, but only if I surrender them to Christ first.
I think we should all be chasing these things. I don’t mean the short-term, quick-fix highs but the real things that register deep in our souls. The things that make us think, “I was made to do this. This makes me feel alive.” It doesn’t matter if you’re good at it, it matters that you’re doing it.
It makes me sad to think of all of the writers who don’t write, creators who don’t create, explorers who don’t explore, and I’m not going to be one of them anymore.