As is often the case, God asked me for obedience without providing me any guarantees.
“Just write,” he told me about five years ago. I was a new mom, recently returned from a stint overseas and recovering from severe burnout.
“What for?” I wondered. I had the beginnings of a book and stirrings of interest in getting published. But being a writer seemed like the most impractical of careers to pursue. I knew I wasn’t going to be earning much, if anything. I wasn’t sure I could produce something of value that would serve others in a meaningful way.
And given the plethora of blog posts and other content being generated every day, it seemed the last thing the world needed was yet another writer.
“Just write,” God continued to nudge me.
What if no one cares about what I write? What if I never get published? What if I fail and accomplish nothing?
“That might happen,” the Spirit conceded. “But I don’t care about accomplishments. I care about faithfulness.”
I had learned this lesson the hard way. Years of striving for achievement had led me straight to burnout — and a long season of depression, exhaustion, and anxiety.
Here God was showing me a different way, of faithfulness and trust, of believing there was as much value in the journey as the destination.
Pledging my faithful obedience was by no means a passive act. I knew I had to chase God’s will through hard work, taking risks, and putting my best foot forward — while also releasing control of the ultimate outcome to him. In many ways, this was far scarier than relying solely on my own efforts.
Fortunately, God was asking me to pursue a vocation that I loved, even if I couldn’t understand the reasoning or the purpose. I could find joy in following his call in spite of the anxiety and uncertainty that this also generates. But those emotions propelled me forward as well. My dogged pursuit of God’s will is, in large part, fueled by my desire to figure out why he has me on this path and what it is he has in store for me.
Interestingly, God’s charge to me to write without any guarantees has, in other ways, freed me. In the writing industry, everyone has an opinion about what success looks like and how to get there. I have read countless articles and listened to many talks about platform, marketing, promotion, and getting paid what you’re worth. There is always someone ready to tell me that I’m doing it wrong or just not doing enough.
Because success in the form of big numbers or dollar signs is not my core motivation, it is far easier to ignore these voices and stay focused on the task at hand: obedience — and keeping my eyes open for what God is doing through my obedience.
In the past five years, God has opened up more doors than I can remember in unexpected ways. I owe almost every writing achievement I’ve had to serendipity or a whim or the kindness and generosity of an acquaintance. Perhaps a friend happened to tell me about an opportunity, or someone introduced me to someone who knew someone. Or a random social media acquaintance turned out to be exactly the person I needed at that moment.
Every opportunity and accomplishment I have had in my writing journey has been a gift. I am particularly aware of this each time I encounter yet another rejection or failure. There have been more than I can count, regular reminders that I cannot travel this road on my own.
So, whenever God takes my meager efforts and amplifies them into greater outcomes than I could have imagined — signing with an agent, becoming a regular contributor for national publications, getting a book deal — I celebrate each with immense gratitude and the marveling that God is faithful and generous.
When he asked me to pursue writing half a decade ago, he probably knew of some ways in which I might serve others through my words. But he was likely concerned, first and foremost, with the state of my soul — and he knew writing would be the conduit to refresh my tired spirit.
Both my writing and my writing journey have pressed me to seek God’s goodness. I want to see more of what he is doing in this world so I can tell others about it; I want to encounter more of others’ generosity so I can experience his kingdom firsthand.
As a result, I push forward in writing and doing all that being a writer requires of me, even when I feel daunted or overwhelmed or inept. Those are actually the moments when I have learned to be most aware of all. For, when my own wisdom or experience or confidence falls short, God is most likely to show up and fill in the gaps.
I’ve seen him do it before. And I trust he’ll do it again. I just have to do my part to make sure I’m ready when it happens.
Dorcas Cheng-Tozun is an award-winning writer and editor. She is a columnist for Inc.com, a regular contributor to Christianity Today and Asian American Women on Leadership, and has written for more than a dozen other publications. Her book on how to balance marriage and entrepreneurship will be published by Hachette Center Street in late 2017.
Previously Dorcas worked as a nonprofit and social enterprise professional in the US and Asia. Dorcas has an MA in Sociology and a BA in Communication from Stanford University. She currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and has also resided in mainland China, Hong Kong, and Kenya. Find her online at chengtozun.com or on Twitter @dorcas_ct.
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