“Though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again” (Proverbs 24:16b NIV).
There is nothing quite so disheartening as pouring yourself into a creative work and then losing it. Maybe it’s not quite as dramatic as your third hard drive failure in a year and 130,000 words; maybe somebody accidently trashed your plot notes and outline or maybe you just hit the wrong button. It doesn’t matter: all you can think is that you’re never going to get it back, at least, not the way it was.
I’ve been through it a thousand times if I’ve been through it once, and every single time, it makes me want to take myself out of the game. In the past, I have taken myself out of the game to my own detriment.
When I find myself back in that place, as I did Sunday, I talk about it: I say how I’m feeling and where I’m at, even if it’s not particularly optimistic. I was supposed to be releasing Small, But Wise, my Proverbs-based curriculum for Kindergarten through 5th grade students, a week from today. I am long overdue for another book release, and am closer than I ever have been to finishing Rachael’s Unfolding since I started writing it eleven-and-a-half years ago. I think it may be simultaneously the darkest and most important thing I’ve ever written, and I’ve been excited about getting it to a place where its ready for feedback. And then, without any warning, the entire formatted Small, But Wise curriculum and all of the progress I’ve made on Rachael’s Unfolding since Christmas are gone.
And even though I’m a completely rational person perfectly capable of accepting that these things happen, that I am neither the exception nor am I immune, after it happened for the third time in a year in a major way and countless times in minor ways, it felt calculated. It felt like if I got back up, I’d get smacked back down again just as quickly. Frankly, it’s just easier to stay down.
Of course, talking about it brought floods of perspective from family and friends.
Many people suggested measures for restoring the hard drive, which I appreciate, but believe me, I’m aware there are ways. Food and shelter are bigger priorities than restored files. Having just come out from under a crap load of debt, I am trying to embrace a more responsible, “if I can’t afford it, I don’t need it” lifestyle. I promise I’m not stupid about technology; I’m really just trying to make better financial decisions.
Regardless, the overwhelming response from nearly everyone was, “Don’t give up,” regardless of any other suggestions.
And I was sitting there thinking, “What if I’m supposed to give up?” After all, if writing is what I’m supposed to be doing, should it really be this hard?
That’s when I remembered a picture I saw on Pinterest and posted to Facebook last week.
This is my ugly foot.
This isn’t about conditions being ideal.
This isn’t things going to hell in a hand basket.
This is about my level of commitment to what I’m supposed to be doing, what I love doing.
Sunday evening, a scene from The Field came to mind. Lilly has just been assaulted by D, and she’s lying flat on her back in a valley. It’s not that she can’t move, she’s just decided she’s not going to move. Anyway, Raphael comes along and asks her what she’s doing there, and she explains it to him: she’s given up everything only to have to give up more. Now, she’s got nothing left to give. She feels destroyed.
“He can’t destroy you, Lilly,” Raphael said. “He doesn’t have the power. When he strikes at you, it’s because you threaten him. He’s afraid of you.”
“That’s ridiculous,” Lilly said.
“Is it?” Raphael asked. “Where were you the other night when he came to you?”
“The enemy camp.”
“Exactly,” Raphael said. “You were in his camp, his territory … [You’re] no threat to him, lying on your blanket by yourself, which is why he’s not here right now.”
After that, Raphael helps her to her feet and gives her an assignment.
On Sunday, one of my friends wisely said, “I always know when I’m close to a breakthrough because everything goes wrong and all signs point to quitting.”
As I mentioned earlier, it would be easier to quit; after all, if you don’t try, you can’t fail. Thing is, it’s not much of a life, and it’s certainly not the kind of life I’m interested in living.
Since my computer troubles began last April, I’ve had several friends tell me they believe God is going to provide some sort of computer miracle, some sort of restoration of what I’ve lost, and while I’d love that, the miracle for me is being able to get back up again. And again. And again. As many times as it takes. Until it’s done.
And so Sunday night, I made a plan.
Instead of January 26, Small, But Wise will be available one week later, February 2. That should give me plenty of time to rewrite the Bible stories and reformat the lessons. It will be a challenge, and I don’t anticipate getting much of anything else done the next two weeks, but I think I can get it done.
Instead of writing Rachael’s Unfolding and A Year with the Baptists on the computer, I’ll plug away by hand. It will be slow going because of the issues I have with my hand and my perfectionist tendencies, but I think I can get it done. As for typing them up, which I will have to do eventually, I’ll cross that bridge when I get there.
Some of my readers may doubt that there’s anything spiritual going on here at all, but I know what I’m writing, and I know why I’m writing it. I know the hearts in which it will resonate. I know the hearts it will harrow and the hearts it will rattle. I know it’s important.
That’s why I’ve gotten back up.
For my ugly foot.
Every artist has got one.
“Do not gloat over me, my enemy! Though I have fallen, I will rise” (Micah 7:8a NIV).