I just turned in an assignment that I was scared to take. At least intimidated. But now that it's done, I feel a lot better.
For most of my career, I've stayed firmly on the editor side of the writer/editor divide. While I've had a fair number of articles in national magazines, most were publications for which I worked on staff. So even if my co-workers didn't like everything I wrote, at least I got personal feedback.
This time I lacked that assurance. The assignment came out of the blue from an editor I'd talked with at the Colorado Christian Writers Conference. One of his regular contributors for the daily devotional publication had retired: would I write a week's worth of devotions?
Would I? Let me think about that.
Yes, I'd certainly read daily devotionals. They would be short—just 205 words each. And the Scripture passages had already been selected. The pay wouldn't be big, but I'd have nine weeks to squeeze the work into my schedule.
I asked if he could send samples and also the verses I'd need to interact with.
Whew! Seven passages, most from the Old Testament, about observing the sabbath. But don't worry, the editor said. I'd have freedom to select what portion from each passage to emphasize for contemporary application.
So I said yes and created a working document. I took the provided template, cut and pasted in each day's extended Scripture portion, then read and reread each one—looking for verses to serve as daily springboards. At last I highlighted seven verses and somehow generated seven catchy titles.
Then I set it aside in the face of other projects. Editing projects. More comfortable projects.
Time ran out. Right before noon last Tuesday, I submitted the novel I'd just finished editing. After lunch I'd have to start writing devotions.
So I did. I reviewed the samples, then the skeletons I'd sketched. For the first devotion, I had clipped a newspaper article I could use to get things started. I struggled through the piece, a constant eye toward the word count. I'd have to write a lot tighter than comes naturally. Good thing I've been an editor.
Now the second one: what will I write? But as I set my fingers to the keyboard, the ideas and the words came—like the oil from the widow's cruse as long as she kept pouring. By suppertime, I had two completed devotions. I think I can do this.
Wednesday morning I envisioned smooth sailing: two in the morning and two more after lunch. Then the phone rang. Another client had a new project—a writer had dropped an assignment, so could I write and research an article and get it to her by tomorrow afternoon? Several emails and phone calls later, I got a reprieve until late next week.
Nearly 10 o'clock. Could I still write two devotions before lunch? By the grace of God I did. Then one after lunch, even with running some errands and taking nearly an hour to walk the dogs. I was going to stop, but I decided to peek at the next passage and key verse. Of course! That's what I'll write. Almost before I knew it, another 205 words were polished and saved.
This morning I had just one more to write. Again an illustration for the theme popped into my mind—one I'd recently been reflecting on without realizing its applicability to this passage. Done!
Until now I've thought of these words of Jesus in Luke 12:11-12 as applying only to believers facing persecution: “Do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.”
I'll be the last one to claim inspiration for my work. But perhaps I'm learning that when I admit my inadequacies, then apply myself to the writing opportunities God drops into my lap, the words will come.