Sarah Anne Hayes

a confession of sorts

CreativitySarah Anne Hayes

Whenever I come back to writing — specifically to this blog — after a bit of a break, I never feel like I quite know what to say or where to start.

It's not for want of having things to say or topics to write about. I currently have 29 posts in draft. And I've been writing in my journal every day for almost two full years, sometimes only a paragraph and sometimes 10+ pages in a night. So clearly, I have a lot of words to say and thoughts in my head and things to share.

On some level, coming back to writing again is a bit like riding a bike. It's a little awkward at first, but when you give it some time, things start to flow just like they always did. But even if that is the case, there's still that awkward period where you're figuring out exactly how the pedals work again and how tall the seat height needs to be and that perfect spot for your hands to go on the handlebars. And there's always a moment, or two or five, where you wonder if you've completely forgotten how to do this thing and you're never going to figure it out again.

I fell out of a groove with my writing...well, I don't exactly know when it was. And I should probably say I fell out of a groove with my public writing because, like I already said, I've written in my journal every single day for almost two full years. Certainly I've published blog posts here and there, but even with those 29 posts in draft, I never quite got back into the routine of it.

In those too rare moments where I'm fully honest with myself, the reason I've stayed away from this space so much over the last couple of years is quite simple: I'm afraid.

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If you're a writer — or a creator of any kind, really — you know that the Lord often uses mediums of creative work to do His transformative, sanctifying work in your own life. Whether it's through music or art or words, He uses the medium of creation — a reflection of an important part of His character — to dig into the heart of the creative and bring him or her face to face with things that are often scary and hard to deal with but also absolutely necessary for growth.

Though I can't speak for anyone else, I know that has certainly been true in my own life. I have been brought face to face with some of my greatest hurts and deepest fears through the medium of writing. And in those honest moments, I know I'm never going to fully be the woman the Lord created me to be if I'm not writing on a regular basis and sharing those words with the world in some way.

If you've ever read a book — fiction or nonfiction — that touched you in some way, I can almost guarantee that it was exceedingly difficult for the author to write those words, to put pen to paper day after day and produce a manuscript that would change someone's life in even the smallest way. 

Ernest Hemingway famously said, "There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed." 

Though the quote itself makes the process of writing sound almost trivial, he's right. Writing the good stuff is some of the hardest work you'll ever have to do, because it requires you to go beyond the happy and easy and fluffy things. It forces you to grapple with hurt and loneliness and heartache and all those thoughts and memories and moments you'd much rather ignore and lock away deep down in your heart.

When I think about it, my favorite writers are the ones whose work feels like sitting down and having a meal with a good friend. Even if you've never met them, you feel like you know them in a deep and special way. The writing itself has an ease and grace to it that feels like being wrapped in a warm hug. Though that welcomed, cozy feeling may be the result, there is no doubt in my mind that the actual process of writing was anything but easy and graceful for that writer whose work you so adore. Some of the best things I've ever written were also the hardest to write and only came through blurry eyes and a tear-stained face because the Lord wrecks me in the best possible way when I surrender the fear and let Him use me to write the things He wants me to share.

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I'm not going to be so bold or prideful as to say my words are going to change the world. Though I would certainly love for it to happen, I know I may never publish a book, I may never speak at conferences or retreats, and I may never share my words with more than a few hundred people, if even that. But I do know all of those things are possible.

For some bizarre reason, completely unbeknownst to me, the Lord could choose to use my words to impact the lives of hundreds or thousands of people I will never meet. He could choose to give me a book deal or the opportunity to share my words and thoughts and lives in front of crowds at conferences or a blog audience larger than I could fathom. Or all three.

But He can't do those things if I don't let Him. He can't do those things if, in my fear and uncertainty, I stubbornly refuse to turn those 29 ideas from drafts into published work filled with the words He's given me to share.

As I sit here typing these words, I admit that I am afraid. A lot of the thoughts rolling around in my head and a lot of those posts in draft have stayed in draft because they're not easy or comfortable things to share. Some of those posts may need to sit for a while longer because some stories can't be shared while you're in the midst of them, but only told in hindsight. But other stories need to be told in the thick. My fear of man is strong and the people pleasing part of me that loves to be liked and loves to make everybody happy is straight up terrified of what could be said of me if I put those things online for the entire world to read. But one of the things I've been learning lately, one of those thoughts that's been rolling around in my head, is that a life defined by fear by default cannot be a life defined by Christ (and yes, you can expect that to be the topic of an upcoming blog post).

As believers, we are called to boldness. Scripture says we have not been given a spirit of fear. It reminds us again and again to not be afraid. It tells us that the Lord is with us, He will fight for us, He will strengthen and uphold us. Nowhere in Scripture are we commanded to fear. Nowhere are we commanded to hide from life, to hide from our calling, to hide from the things the Lord has for us because of fear.

In Matthew 25, Jesus tells what is known at the Parable of the Talents. A man goes on a journey and gives each of his servants a certain number of talents (a measurement of money), "each according to his ability." While their master is gone, two of the servants use their talents wisely and both double what they were first given. The third servant hid his talent in a hole in the ground. Upon his return, the master commends the first two servants for faithfully using what he had given them, but he calls the third servant "wicked" and "slothful." Why had the third servant hid his talent in the ground? Because he was afraid. 

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This is partially a confession and partially me processing for the sake of processing and partially me saying, "This is a thing that I am going to do." 

Namely, that I am going to stop giving into fear. I am going to write the things the Lord puts on my heart to write, regardless of what I think people might say about them or about me as a result.

When I come to the end of my life, I don't want to look back at a bunch of blog posts in draft and words that I never shared because I was too afraid. I don't want to look back on any part of my life and ask myself, "What if?" I don't want to see moment after moment where I felt the Lord nudging me in a certain direction but I walked the other way or I refused to step out in faith because I was afraid. I want to be able to see how the Lord used me because I let my faith be bigger than my fear.

I strongly believe that words have the power to change lives. I've seen it happen in own life and I've seen it happen in others. And though I won't presume it will happen with my words, it could. But even if my life is the only one changed, even if I am the only one who loves Christ more as a result of wisely using my talents, it will be worth it.


image via minimography