It's almost two in the morning, which means that it's technically Sunday, even though it still seems like Saturday night. Writing a blog at almost two in the morning isn't at all typical for me, but right now it seems like the thing to do. I can't sleep and for some reason am not even all that sleepy, even though it seems like I should be.
Even if I were sleepy, I don't think I'd be able to sleep right now. There's a lot going on in my head, and to tell you the truth, it's pretty loud. I'm the sort of person who can sleep like a rock once I get good and asleep--but when I'm first starting to fall asleep, I need quiet. If I've just fallen asleep, the slightest sound can wake me, and sometimes it takes awhile to get back asleep. So all these loud voices in my head are keeping me from getting good and asleep.
The voices are from a lot of sources. I've got characters from my books having conversations in my mind. I've got characters from other people's books as well--repeating dialogue that I've read and don't quite remember. I've got voices from friends in real life--friends who love me, but right now it seems as though they don't understand me. Former friends whom I've lost in the past few weeks or months or even years, and despite all my efforts to make amends, I've had to let them go. And all I can do in those situations is keep praying. In some of those situations, my heart still breaks every time I think of those lost friends. And it seems as though I've failed somehow because they don't think I'm worth any effort it would take to restore the friendship. I've got voices from family that also doesn't seem to understand me--voices of real people, but voices that probably aren't truly real or really true, but right now they seem so loud. The voices say how I've disappointed them, not lived up to their expectations. I've got voices from my past that tell me how I'll always be this angry kid beyond redemption, despite the fact that the Lord has really been working hard on my anger issues over this past year. I've got voices from people I don't even know--literary agents and editors who will reject all my best efforts, and their imaginary voices become this loud echo in my mind that makes it seem as though I really shouldn't even try.
Things are not as they seem. I know that very well right now. I can't make the voices shut up long enough to allow me to sleep, but I can listen to another Voice. And that's why I'm sitting at a computer at what is now a little after two in the morning, typing all this out. Things seem one way, but I'm both wise and foolish enough to believe that all those voices are wrong. All the pain and rejection and struggles I've had in all the various areas of life are not to be ignored. I have experienced them all, and for that reason, I think they are valid and have some place in my life. I just don't think they get to define me.
Sometimes, when I'm really good and depressed or confused or scared or all of the above, I expect God to shout out over all the voices. That's what I usually have to do at work when there are a lot of kids. I have to shout or clap my hands or flicker the lights so I can get the attention of all the kids. And sometimes when the voices are being really loud, I think God should come shout above them so they will be quiet and I can hear Him. And He could do it, too.
But sometimes when I'm working with the kids, I don't shout. Instead, I whisper. I whisper very quietly, "If you can hear me, go sit down on the carpet." First, only a few kids hear and they go sit down. Then other kids see those kids who are sitting down, and they start listening. Soon, all the kids are sitting down and (for the most part) listening to whatever I have to say, and I never had to raise my voice or cause any kind of scene.
In the Bible, the prophet Elijah fled for his life from Jezebel. It seemed that he was the only prophet left, the only one who still believed in and stood for God. He was so afraid/confused/depressed that he wanted to die. And I'm thinking it's safe to say that he had a lot of voices in his head, too. But God led him to a cave, and there was a mighty, forceful wind. But God wasn't in the wind. Then there was a great earthquake. But God was not in the earthquake. Then there was a fire. But God wasn't in the fire.
God came in a gentle blowing, a whisper. A still, small Voice.
Earlier today, or yesterday, depending on how you want to look at it, I was at a gas station giving my car its weekly allotment of overpriced gasoline. All these voices were already shouting in my head, and I was starting to listen to them. And I was starting to get really depressed. A person like me gets depressed fairly easily--even while doing mundane things like pumping gasoline--which is why I have to be really careful about the way things seem.
Well, God didn't shout over the voices, but I heard Him. I heard Him when I looked up and saw a swallowtail butterfly fluttering around a nearby bush.
To you, that probably doesn't mean anything (in fact, you may be wondering if perhaps I'm delusional since I'm suffering from a lack of sleep--and I'm hearing voices and all that). And if it were any other day, it probably wouldn't mean that much to me, either. But at that moment, in the midst of those loud voices, the gentle whisper of a butterfly's wings was enough to call my attention away from the blaring voices in my head. Because that very same kind of butterfly is a symbol of hope in my first novel. And uncertainty about that novel was what started all those voices blaring. Though it seems like I've put a lot of effort into that book and still have SO much left to do with it--though it seems like I should probably just give up on this dream of being a writer and, I don't know, take up professional water polo or something--I'm going to choose to ignore the way things seem.
And I'm going to listen to the still, small Voice. The Redeemer. There are reasons He made me a writer. Some of those reasons have to do with the fact that when He breathes through my writing, it encourages others. Some of those other reasons just have to do with the fact that He delights in breathing through my writing, and He wants me to feel His pleasure when I write. I can't forget that.
And now I'm going to go try see if the voices will let me sleep so I won't be a complete zombie at church tomorrow...or later today... I don't think my pastor would appreciate me shouting out "BRAINZZZZ" instead of "Amen!" (not that I'm that big of an 'Amen!-er') ...hmm. Might make things more interesting, though.