When I say that writing my book was an inspired process, I do not mean that I had nothing to do with that process, that I sat twiddling my thumbs while I waited for inspiration. Not at all. I worked hard, writing, rewriting, moving sentences and whole paragraphs around, rearranging, reworking transitions, eliminating illustrations or turns of phrase—even ones I liked, or loved—that no longer fit.
But as I worked, I was held in the hand of God, my work inspired by the Spirit of God breathing life into the words that sometimes poured generously across the page and sometimes had to be wrenched and wrestled there.
Let me be specific. My book is an introduction to the church year. Each chapter corresponds to one of the eight major seasons or days of the Christian calendar. The two chapters I was most dreading were Epiphany and Pentecost because these are not seasons but rather single days, and I wondered how I would ever find enough to say about them to fill a chapter.
The Epiphany chapter, particularly, gave me fits. I wrote and found nothing usable, so I wrote again with the same result. It took me 12 of my 16 hours to even find a gem I could use to provide direction for the chapter. But once I did, the writing flowed, and in just a few days I was able to finish the whole chapter, piecing in material I’d written—and written off—in those frustrating days of what seemed like wasted writing time.
Months later, when I got my editor’s comments back, guess which chapter he wanted me to significantly revise? Yep, Epiphany. He particularly wanted me to change the opening story and suggested moving one of two anecdotes from within the chapter to its beginning. Again this chapter gave me fits. I went through eight drafts, using various iterations of my editor’s suggestions before one line—one line!—from the chapter morphed into a story, and that story fit the themes of the chapter far better than I could have ever dreamed.
As I look back, I see dozens of instances like this one, where I felt like I was getting nowhere, banging my head against a wall of words, none of which were yielding to let me through to the road I knew was on the other side. But all that head-banging was not wasted, however painful it was at the time.
I think often of Jesus’ words to his disciples after they feed the 5000: “Gather up the fragments, that nothing may be lost” (John 6:12). Indeed, nothing was. Nothing is. Amazing, that.