NOTE: This post heavily focuses on God, His impact on my life, and living according to the Bible.
When I talk to my husband about embarking on freelance writing, he often asks me: "What do you define success as?"
Hmm. Good question.
My responses vary:
"It’s educating others and making a difference in other people’s lives."
"Bringing in a decent income."
"Doing what I love to do every day."
But if I’m honest with myself, I define success as writing a brilliant piece, receiving recognition, being lavished with laud and praise over it, and winning a slew of writing and/or journalism awards. I’ve done it in the past. I’d like to do it all over again.
Back in my senior year of college, I won an award as the best student print journalism writer on Long Island. I beat out I-don’t-know-how-many other college students on an island that boasts a population of 2.8 million (as of the 2000 census). Sure, it was just college but it opened my eyes and made me feel as though I had the potential to do that on a bigger scale.
Then comes Epic Fail. (Link provided for your amusement.)
Depression swooped in and carried me off into Lexapro land. I suppose I’ve never recovered creatively. The ambitious part of myself needs to come to terms with the fact that:
- I will never win a Pulitzer Prize
- I’ll never have a book that hits the New York Times Bestseller list
- I’ll never have a major publisher pick up any book that I write
- I’ll never work as an editor at a magazine
- I’ll never be an expert in anything.
I’m not trying to be negative; I’m being real. I need to face the facts that I’m not all that great and never will be.
On the flip side, I significantly underestimate myself.
My husband often gets irritated with me because I often say, "I don’t have an impact on anybody’s life." With some annoyance and pain in his voice, he’ll respond, "What about me? What about the impact you’ve had in my life? Why don’t I matter?"
To which I’ll respond, "You do." Then my idealistic self goes on, "But I want to reach the world. I want to make a difference in other people’s lives beyond my family and friends. I want to make a lasting impact on the world."
Why is it more important to me to affect people’s lives who don’t know or care about me rather than the people who do? The same people I have had an impact on are the same people who "care" about me. Why isn’t that enough for me?
I attend a Women’s Bible Study that’s held each Wednesday and we’re reading a book called Respectable Sins by Jerry Bridges. It’s a good book, but I don’t like it.
It’s not exactly the Joel Osteen "feel good" kind of book.
It’s a convicting book: it steps on toes and makes you feel squeamish
and uncomfortable. The book calls Christians to recognize the sins that
they overlook, i.e., gossip, slander, pride, greed, selfishness, being judgmental, etc.
One of the sins Bridges mentions is wanting recognition. I’ve discussed this with a couple of Christians and they think he goes overboard on some of the sins. Bridges bases his conclusion on Luke 17:10:
So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’"
So if wanting recognition from other people is a sin (debatable among Christians), what am I left with?
For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do. — Hebrews 6:10
As a Christian, all the things I do shouldn’t be primarily for other people, they should be done for God. This is a tough pill to swallow. It’s tough to live for a Supreme Being who I’ve never met in person and have never seen face-to-face. But my belief in Him is the only thing that’s kept me alive. I have to focus on that and keep going. If I believe that He’s the one who’s kept me alive, I owe Him my life. He’s never called me on the phone, texted me, or sent me an e-mail. Sure, I have His "love letter" to me but "wasn’t that written, like, ages ago?" Is it still relevant?
Like any normal person, I have my doubts. But then I think about the intricately designed details of my life, and I know it’s not "random" how my husband and I met each other. The people I’m friends with are not "random" and the people I work with are not "random." Everyone in my life impacts me in some way and I do the same for them. (Bringing a smile to their faces is definite evidence of that!)
What really matters — and it’s tough for me to come to grips with — is that everything I do has to be for God. This blog I write has to glorify God and accomplish His purposes in whatever way He designs. The way I treat my family and other people has to glorify God and exhibit Christ-like qualities.
Does it really matter whether I have a New York Times Bestseller? No. Do I want one? Yes, but in the end, it doesn’t matter. Does it matter whether I have a worldwide impact? No. Would I like to? Yes, but in the end, it doesn’t matter. So what does matter?
"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets." — Matthew 22:37-40
If that’s all I accomplish in this life, "I have only done what was my duty."
Mood Rating: 7.5