“Mommy, can you play with me?”
I looked up from writing. My seven-year-old daughter stood beside me, looking at me with pleading eyes. My younger daughter and my husband were napping and I had hoped to crack out a blog post while the house was quiet. I mumbled something about “in a little while”, which in Laura-lingo translates to “in about an hour or so.” (I lose track of time when I’m writing.)
“We haven’t played together in years.” Her lower lip pooched out.
“In years?” That had to be an exaggeration.
“Ever since you started your novel, you haven’t had time to play with me.”
Ouch. Guilty as charged. I spent the next two hours coloring and decorating sheets of paper with stickers and scraps of leftover Christmas wrapping paper.
My writing has made my life more complicated than most non-writers can imagine. There’s the networking part of publishing (Facebook, Writer’s Digest Community).
- Writing blog posts.
- Writing brilliant and brief comments on other people’s blog posts (in hope that they decide to read mine).
- Investigating journals to submit to.
- Prepping my work for submission (which involves lots of screaming at my computer over formatting issues).
- Submitting work (writing cover letters, mailing or emailing my work).
- Keeping track of where and what I’ve submitted.
- Waiting for rejection and/or acceptance letters.
- Oh, and writing. Yeah, let’s not forget that last one.
So what suffers? My relationships. “You haven’t had time to play with me, Mommy.”
When I’m writing, I’m totally invested in the present. It’s easy be seduced by the 24/7 demands (or perceived demands) of this world. (Can you believe how compelling Facebook is? Just think, I can build my own zoo or farm! Keep up with hundreds of close, personal friends. Join thousands of groups.)
But if my relationships suffer, is it worth it? If I don’t have time to talk to my husband, play with my children, or love God, then it’s time to get off the grid.
“Off the grid” can mean living in a self-sufficient manner without reliance on one or more public utilities. (Google it; it’s a pretty interesting topic.) It can also mean this: wanting to live differently because my current life doesn’t line up with my future goals. The grid is all the stuff we overdesire, the stuff we are imprisoned by, the stuff we think everyone expects us to do. It traps us in a little box of manic over-busyness.
- If your goal for the future is to reduce your carbon imprint, what will you do? You might live without public utilities.
- If your goal is to publish a novel, you’ll discipline yourself to write, network, submit and learn from rejection.
- If your goal is to have meaningful relationships with others, you’ll spend time with them.
But if your desire is to love God fully, you’ll put aside the things of this world that crowd out your time for God. That doesn’t mean ditching good things. It’s when I distort them and believe that my writing is the only thing that matters and I must give every waking moment (and some sleeping ones) to pursue my dream that it becomes a problem.
I have a desire to be published. I believe God wants me to write and be published. But that’s not the end-all, be-all of my life. To quote agent Chip MacGregor,
“Publishing your book does not validate your life. Seeing your name in print doesn’t automatically mean you are a good person, or that your life has been worthwhile.”
Ouch. I’m guilty of thinking this. I’m sure some of you are guilty of trying to validate your life in other ways: work, sports, education, possessions and so on. And some of us care far too much about things that will pass away in the end.
“We have living affections for dying things.” —John Owen
So how do we get off this grid? Two ways Christ did this on the night he was betrayed (and here I’m borrowing from a sermon preached at my church by Bill Nash):
- He paused to enjoy his relationship with his disciples. They ate and sang a song together. We can get off the grid by enjoying life—not the manic whirlwind of activity that we mistake for life, but the relationships with others and God that is true life.
- He also prayed, submitting to the will of the Father. That will included suffering—a suffering that led to our forgiveness. We get off the grid when we submit to God’s will, cherish the finished work of Christ, and share with others how we have been forgiven.
These aren’t things that are easy for me, but I’m willing to get off the grid. Are you?