A Blog by Jennifer Aulthouse

A heart for those who want more of God. A desperate plea for those who don't.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Trusting God with the Little You Have

It took me until about a year ago to claim my identity as a writer with any sense of authority, because while I know it’s a God-given gift, I’ve been evaluating its presence with a worldly measuring system:

1. I’ve never received a paycheck for writing anything.
2. I’ve never submitted anything for publication, save a few college projects in a campus newsletter.
3. I don’t even have any sort of substantial collection of my own work here at home.

But it’s no longer a question of wondering about my calling. It is my calling. It is clearly my calling. I’ve been given the gift of words, and when I write out of inspiration felt from the Lord’s presence, the Spirit moves within me in a manner unique to any other I’ve experienced.

Have you ever considered the difference between a calling and a passion? In my own life, I’ve come to realize that they are two distinct things. They are both derived from talent placed in me by the Lord, but the passion – singing – is one that I am consistently drawn towards out of the great enjoyment it brings to me. I love it, and while it can be hard work, I am always seeking ways in which I can use this gift to express my love for God and enjoy the gift itself. A calling, though, is not something we would necessarily choose for ourselves. We may recognize our talent and proclivity towards using it, but our affection for its presence is more of an acquired taste. We all like the idea of having a calling, but the actual nitty-gritty work involved in developing into our calling and the uncertainty of following a path where the calling may be leading us isn’t always so enjoyable.

Well, I don’t really enjoy writing. The call to write hovers over me like an imposing dark cloud. If I’m not writing, I’m left restless and incomplete, like I just know that there is a chained creature inside that needs freed. When I am writing, it’s extremely frustrating in gathering the words, the creative energy needed is maddeningly fickle in its sense of arrival, and the whole endeavor is unbelievably draining. It really is a birthing process, and with having two young children at home who require lots of attention, of course, most days it just feels too hard to enter into that deep, quiet, still place I need to in order to write. Getting there, oftentimes, is the hardest part.

But once I am there, I feel at home in myself in a way that confirms to me that writing is what I am indeed created for. However, it’s a fragile zone: I am engrossed and focused to the point where if anyone or anything interrupts my momentum, I turn into a nasty, snarly troll, lashing out in ungodly annoyance at whoever has disrupted me, which happens pretty often, due to the aforementioned family. I am almost never alone. And I don’t like this troll creature I turn into when this happens, so I avoid going there altogether.

I share these things to illustrate how I had only casually embraced my call to write. But in the past 18 months or so, I’ve taken a couple big steps of obedience for me towards claiming my writing inheritance…….that’s what our talents and abilities are, after all: gifts entrusted to us from a loving Father. However, even though I’d seen God’s hand arrange my life in a way that has brought huge confirmation to me, I had still dragged my feet on claiming “writer”, not only as part of my identity or even as a career path, but literally as how God has crafted me, created me, foreseen me. It’s not simply the act of writing, it’s an entire mindset of living that defines me as a writer, and I had not captured it. I’d been standing around the shoreline, splashing my feet around a little, making all these grand mental plans to dive in and pursue my purpose, and yet not doing it.

Until I encountered a particular passage in a Bible study lesson a few weeks ago: 2 Kings 4:1-7. The widow of a prophet cries out to Elisha that her husband is dead, but her husband’s creditor is coming to take her two sons as his slaves. When Elisha questions how he can be of help and what she has to work with, she says she has nothing but a little bit of oil. Elisha tells her to go to all her neighbors and ask for empty jars – not just a few; to ask boldly – and then to pour oil into all the jars. She does as she is told, and the oil keeps flowing until all the jars are filled. Elijah tells her to sell the oil to pay her debts and live on what is leftover.

When I read it, the floodlights of my soul lit up and I felt the sweet sting of loving conviction drench my spirit.

The oil, of course, is my gift of writing. It is also whatever time I have to put into writing, and whatever meager sense of opportunity I may have to do anything of value when it comes to writing. From what I can see, there isn’t much of any of these things to quantify. But this is about neither my supply, the world’s demand, nor any other economic system in which the human mind can anticipate an outcome. This adventure is not about the oil; it is not about measuring the oil, comparing the oil, or whether or not I will ever sell the oil. It is about the One who has provided the oil.

A beautiful story of God’s provision, yes, but to me it was a call to stop making excuses for what I may or may not lack, cast aside my laziness and every rationalization I cling to in avoiding the hard work of writing. It was a call to live life believing that God is neither watching Wall Street when it comes to running His economy nor behaving as Simon Cowell when it comes to evaluating talent. While I have not had to encounter the death of my husband, nor has the bank come to request that our children work off the mortgage, I have held back from purposefully seizing the oil He’s given to me as anything I can offer Him because I’ve judged it as being too little. I recognized myself in this passage, seeing the littleness in my jar and of my jar--the jar symbolizing my everyday life. But the message became clear to me that, like all English majors, multiplication isn’t my task. I do have a role to play, though. In fact, without my willingness to boldly go and take the steps He leads me to in finding people and places where He can pour forth His words of edification, there will be no harvest for Him.

No, I don’t believe He’s promising me financial security if I write. Rather, He offers a harvest of life-lasting joy that will bloom from witnessing how His hand will work through the gift of words He has poured forth, whether that is as publicly grand as publishing a book or as silently simple as through a note to a struggling friend.

I have made a decision to not show God how little oil I have. Instead, I am letting God show me how little oil I have, but I am also trusting that if He sends me to find jars, He will show me how the little oil He’s given me has nothing to do with how He can make it flow eternally. My joyful harvest arises from being chosen to find the jars.