With some gentle prodding from my friend Ellen, I have decided to post today. I had already planned to anyway, but Ellen's subtle reminder ("UPDATE!!!") helped me get on the ball. Well, Ellen, the post you're about to get may be more than you bargained for.
It has been an interesting two weeks. Three? Whatever.
It all began a few months ago at our Christmas Concert Planning Committee meeting. I attend a pretty large church (not one of those multiple-thousand-members mega churches, but over 1000--large enough to be one of the largest churches in the area), and for a few years, they've been asking me to be a part of this 12-person committee, which was organized to plan what is our largest outreach event of the year. I have no idea why I was asked in the first place, but I've always suspected it was for comic relief; I seldom have anything to add except a snarky comment or a joke. At any rate, they keep asking me to come, so either I'm pretty funny, or I have more to add than I thought.
This year, they asked me to be a part of the writing sub-committee. Generally speaking, we as a church do not do purchased cantatas or programs, so every year's script is an original, and always written by a member of our church body. I was fully expecting that I'd serve in an advisory capacity on this one, it being my first year on the sub-committee, but imagine my surprise when I learned that I'd been nominated to write the whole shebang by myself.
I like to write--love it, in fact--but this seemed a bit huge. What business did I have writing the drama script for this annual concert, which is always amazing and profound and impactful? Snarky jokes do not an outreach make, nor do stories of my children's potty songs or recipes. But I had been asked, and I couldn't say no. Besides, we already had the whole layout of the concert in place, and the general idea for the drama was there, so how hard could it be?
So right away, I sat down with the music for the concert and highlighted the inspirational keywords. I identified the themes in each section to determine what I needed to cover in each drama break. I listened to the songs over and over, having myself a merry little Christmas in September.
And when I really needed to get down to business and start writing, I . . . checked out every commentary on Matthew and Luke and took as many historical and theological notes as I could. I filled pages and pages.
And when I really, really needed to get down to business and start writing, already, I . . . checked out some more commentaries and Bible dictionaries and concordances and took some more notes. Because as long as I was adding to my research, I didn't have to face the fact that at some point, the studying needed to stop, and the actual composition needed to begin.
I encountered two problems, though: 1) I was still thoroughly convinced that I didn't have the talent or the wisdom to write something that would be interesting AND lead people to Jesus, and 2) My kids would not nap, so I had no time to just sit down and write. To be honest, my heart has been heavy these past few weeks, and I've felt absolutely weighed down by this responsibility. Afraid of it, in a way. And every time I thought about writing this drama, I cried--I felt sort of worthless, useless. Scared. And my deadline, October 15th, was looming large.
I didn't think about Satan's influence until I was approached by a wonderful woman at our church named Joni. She helps lead the kids' choir, and has written the Christmas Concert in the past, and is also a part of the sub-committee. She shared with me that she had realized that Satan will do his best to thwart the things you're doing for God, and said that she had experienced that firsthand while she was writing the script a few years ago. "So I'm going to be praying for you as you write, that Satan wouldn't be able to touch you!" I should have known that my fear was founded in Satan's lies; 2 Timothy 1:7 says, "For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline." Of course my fear wasn't from God, so it could only have come from one other place.
I'd like to report that Satan was bound and that things got better right away, but that wouldn't be accurate. In fact, after that moment, I became acutely aware of Satan's power, and I was dismayed that, even though my confidence was ebbing back (due in part to a very timely blog post by Beth Moore), Satan still had a very powerful tool at his disposal; I'm sorry to have to tell you that it was my kids. All of a sudden, when it was crunch time, the time I so desperately needed them to take nice, long naps so I could focus on the Word of God and write the Good News, they wouldn't sleep a lick. Another writing friend and sub-committee member, Debbie, told me she would pray specifically that my children would take naps. I wanted to call her and tell her she wasn't praying hard enough. I actually had a veritable army praying for me--Mia, the Worship Coordinator, Mark, the Vocal Music director, and Jon, the Woship Leader. Then there was my choir Care Group. And my Sunday School class. And throngs of friends and family, all praying. It should all have gone smoothly, right?
This past Monday was the breaking point: the kids took only 30 minutes of a nap in the morning, due to the fact that Charis had never actually fallen asleep and wasn't about to let her brother rest, either. The kids got up, and I took them onto the addition to run around, where I promptly stepped on a rusty nail that went through my foot. I obsessed about the possibility of lockjaw for hours, until it was time to try another nap for the kids. Surely, they'll sleep--they're exhausted! I reasoned. Wrong again. Judah screamed and screamed, and Charis just sang and played with the curtains. I tried in vain to write while sitting on the stairs and periodically telling them to be quiet and rest. I was not successful in the least. It was while I was rocking Judah in an attempt to calm him several long minutes later that I had a breakthrough. I was rocking and praying, rocking and crying, and praying some more, when all of a sudden, God gave me these words:
Come, I'll show you.
I cannot tell you what an incredible moment this was: in that instant, not only did I have the assurance that God was literally telling me that he was about to show me what to write, I had the complete idea for how I was to write it. I knew exactly what my main character had to do and say. God is a wonderful multi-tasker with the best grasp on language: only He could take three words and a contraction and make it into a complete drama.
I still faced the hurdle of Time: Abe had softball that night, which meant more kid-filled hours, and they never did take that nap in the afternoon. So even though I knew what I was supposed to write, I didn't have the time to do it. And then God gave me a 5-gallon bucket and a hose. I filled the bucket with water and lugged it back to the sandbox, where the kids entertained themselves for 40 minutes and I was able to make some decent headway on my writing. Thank you, God, for that bucket.
That night, after a very encouraging conversation with Debbie after the kids had gone to sleep (finally!), I sat down to write. Words poured out of me, and I don't think I have to tell you that I had very little to do with them: it was all God. I wrote until 12:30 that night, accomplishing nearly half of the script. Praise the Lord!
The next day, I was as desperate for the kids to take a good nap as ever: I was in a groove and wanted to keep writing before I lost it. On Sunday night, I'd casually mentioned to Abe that we never had problems with nap time when Charis was still using a pacifier. Sadly, her paci days were over, and we'd tossed all of them. I thought about going and buying some new ones, just so I could write, but couldn't bring myself to do so. But that morning, the kids were snooping around in a bathroom cupboard, and while rooting through our travel toiletries kit, Charis found a necklace I'd been looking for. There's another necklace I'm missing, so I pulled out the kit to see if it, too, was hiding there. It wasn't, but there staring me in the face was the answer to a prayer I hadn't even thought about praying: a pacifier. A pacifier God had hidden from me so that I wouldn't toss it with the others months ago, hidden until the very moment that I needed it. God is a God of details. He is a God of promises. He is a God of pacifiers. Thank you, God, for pacifiers!
Minutes later, the kids were sound asleep. I was able to continue writing, and pounded out one more Act before I had to head off to be a substitute volleyball coach.
The next day, Abe's mom took the kids for the day, and I was able to finish the script. It was finished, and it was awesome.
Before you think I'm full of myself, let me clarify: it was only awesome because I really couldn't see much of myself in it: I had nothing until God showed me what to write. In fact, some parts I don't even recollect writing. God provided everything I needed to write that script--a bucket, a paci, even the words. I'm sure there will be edits to be made, things that I didn't, through my own humanity, get just right, but I'm confident that God will be glorified through this script, and through the music it accompanies. Praise the Lord!
Mia sent me Psalm 3 this morning, and just look how well it fits!
O LORD, how my adversaries have increased!
Many are rising up against me.
Many are saying of my soul,
"There is no deliverance for him in God." Selah.
But You, O LORD, are a shield about me,
My glory, and the One who lifts my head.
I was crying to the LORD with my voice,
And He answered me from His holy mountain. Selah.
I lay down and slept;
I awoke, for the LORD sustains me.
I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people
Who have set themselves against me round about.
Arise, O LORD; save me, O my God!
For You have smitten all my enemies on the cheek;
You have shattered the teeth of the wicked.
Salvation belongs to the LORD;
Your blessing be upon Your people!