Monday, July 19, 2010

Twenty-Two Years

I knew I was a writer when I was eight years old. I'm thirty now, and have only very recently actually sent out query letters to attempt to get something published. It took me twenty-two years to get from the calling to the action. There are a lot of reasons for this, some good, some bad. Some are neutral--they just are. As pathetic as it seems that it's taken me this long to figure out what I already knew, I can't really allow myself to feel too much regret over it.

When I was in third grade, I had an amazing teacher named Mrs. O'Daniel. She encouraged me in anything I expressed any interest in at all. I auditioned for the school Christmas play--she encouraged me and offered to help me with my lines (and I ended up getting one of the main roles--Gladys in "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever"). If I asked a question about anything we were studying in class, no matter how stupid the question was, she praised me for asking it. When I started writing these really ridiculous, horrible short stories, she let me read them in front of the class every day after lunch. Every single day.

Now, not only did this allow her to have a 10-15 minute break from teaching every day after lunch, but it also gave me the opportunity to show off--something I believe that every writer secretly (or not so secretly) enjoys. I remember some of the stories ("The Adventures of Super Gary" was one of my earliest creations. I'm not kidding. I think his super powers must have been the ability to bore an entire classroom full of eight-year-olds). They were just dreadful. But I can clearly see Mrs. O'Daniel sitting at her desk, leaned back, her warm brown eyes full of excitement. She laughed at all the appropriate times. She always applauded. She was the one who helped me realize--I was meant to be a writer!

Having an amazing teacher like Mrs. O'Daniel also helped me realize early on that there are two kinds of teachers: those who are born to be teachers (like her), and those who just need a job (like the vast majority of the teachers I've had). My parents were both teachers. My entire childhood, teenage, and early adult years were plagued with the dreaded question: "So, Ruth, you're going to be a teacher like your parents, right?" *Shudder*

The fact of the matter is, while my parents both had their shining moments in the classroom, I got the impression from both of them that they were only teachers because they needed jobs. And I know that if I were to become a teacher, I would only be doing it because I needed a job. I have never wanted to be a teacher. The idea that being a teacher is all that I'd be suited for is extremely insulting to me. It's not because I look down on teachers. It's because people assumed that I'd never amount to more than a mediocre job for which I wasn't well-suited. The irony is, in working with kids now, I do often get called "Teacher." *Double Shudder*

But working with kids isn't like being a teacher. I've found I am fairly good at teaching preschoolers--mainly because I'm on their level. I know my colors. I know my numbers and my alphabet. I know what a circle looks like. These are things I can teach because they're things that are basic enough for me to relate them to small minds (like my own). But I've tried to teach higher concepts, and I'm afraid I just don't have any gifts for teaching. Not at all, really.

So I went to college, planning on being a writer, planning on getting married to a minister. That way I could just let my hypothetical husband provide for me while I watched our hypothetical children and wrote hypothetical books. The hypothetical husband never happened (STILL hasn't happened). I figured I'd study English and the Bible and just write to support myself. So in college, I was surrounded by men who planned to be ministers and women who planned on being missionaries. I wasn't like them. I'm still not like them. And it's really easy to feel inferior when you know you're being called to something, but it's not the same thing that others are being called to. People don't understand.

My third-to-last semester of college, I guess I panicked and figured that writing wasn't a very good career path. So I tacked on a psychology minor for good measure and figured I'd be a counselor instead. That's a nice, good, practical, sometimes decently paying job, right?

I went to seminary for Biblical Counseling. The seminary wasn't a mistake; the counseling was. I'm not supposed to be a counselor. I'm a writer. I was only in seminary a year and a half before my cash flow got too slight to continue. And that's okay, because I didn't really mesh with the counseling program anyway. Or seminary. I'm grateful for what I learned there, but it was time to part ways. It's not you, seminary, it's me.

So badda boom, badda bing--I work with kids now. And I've written three books. And I'm now, finally, seeking to get something published. And I still have some people say or imply that there's nothing worthwhile in writing. I've had people say or imply that God can't use writing to minister to others. I've had people say or imply that God couldn't possibly be calling me to be a writer.

Except I know differently. I've known differently since I was eight years old. I'm not proud of the doubts I've allowed to delay my efforts. I'm not always proud of the detours I took in this journey that made me stray from the path I've been walking. But you know, there's been a lot of life in between the eight-year-old Ruth and the thirty-year-old Ruth. I wasn't ready to write what I've written when I was 20 and in college. The things that I've written have come from the experiences of school and loss and heartache that life has given. I am not always proud of my actions--or my inactions--but I can't say I really regret it.

Because God has a way of knowing exactly how we're going to mess up, and He's pretty good about weaving grace into all of it. So whether we fail or succeed, it doesn't really matter much in the long run.

I'm not published yet. I have no idea how long it will take me to get to that point. I do believe I will get there someday. God has made me a zany, disorganized, often childish, sometimes childlike, tactless, sporadic writer. I don't know all the whys, but I know there are reasons. And I also know that I'm nothing more than a weak fool.

The thing is, God has always chosen the weak and foolish to shame the strong and wise.

I'll get there yet.


  1. For all Samson's strength, God counted on his weaknesses and sins to accomplish His purpose through him.

  2. 1 Cor. 1:27 is like my life verse...for lack of a better phrase.