Nothing is Wasted
My alabaster flask
Well, my friends, I have officially embarked on writing my first fiction manuscript, and there is so much to say. Though I’ll try, I’m certain that whatever I put down here today can’t convey what these past few weeks have been like. Looking back over my 52 years (I just celebrated another turn of the calendar on the 22nd), I would say that I’ve had a fairly varied and expansive life. However, beyond raising children with my husband, I’ve never put my hand to an endeavor that has brought me more joy and satisfaction than this. I’m in love with novel writing. Head over heels.
Let me start by saying, I’ve been thinking about this book for months. The characters have been living with me, their families and backstories, hang-ups, and passions. I’ve written a few scenes, taken notes, and outlined my manuscript, but sitting down and beginning to get them onto the page in a dedicated fashion has been exhilarating. It feels like the entirety of my life has been preparing me to step into this. That sounds dramatic, and it probably is, but humor me. The whole thing seems decidedly God-led, and that leads me to the topic I’d love to chat about today.
There is an old writing adage that says, “Write what you know.” Of course, if all authors stuck to this, we wouldn’t have historical fiction, fantasy, or sci-fi, which all delve into worlds, either real or imagined, which the author is not familiar with. Even so, since this manuscript is also for school, I knew early on I would not have the capacity for in-depth research or world-building. So, I’m writing what I know. Practically, that has meant three things: there are bits and pieces inspired by my life experience, faith is a major theme, and it is set in the city of my heart, New York.
Something I didn’t quite anticipate, but has been awe-inducing, is that as I’m diving deep into this story, I sense the strong presence of God with me. Things are coming to the surface and finding their way into my characters’ lives that I haven’t thought of (or wanted to think of) from memories long since put aside. The memories themselves aren’t the thing. It’s more like snapshots of what I gleaned or felt or learned (or didn’t learn); not lines of prose with prescriptive agendas, but rather potent moments that come in a glance, an action, or a simple line of dialogue. It feels like grace.
Having come to faith a bit later in life, I’ve long marveled at God’s grace when I reflect on my past. I was 28 and living a life steeped in sin when I met the Lord. I was also heavily into New Age philosophies. When I met Jesus face-to-face, the reckoning with my sin and deceit was almost unbearable. But the longer I’ve walked with Him, all I see now is grace. I look back and rejoice because I see how God used it all, and now is using it in my writing.
The New Age piece is particularly prominent in the narrative of my protagonist, Meg Anders. I even set Meg’s coming-to-faith journey around the years of my own conversion: 1999-2000. Writing her story feels beautifully cathartic. Though Meg and I look nothing alike, I fished out the photo in today’s post to share as it was taken in 1999 on the weekend of my graduation from The American Academy of Dramatic Arts. My mom was in town and the shot was snapped of us right outside my school on Madison Avenue. When I look at the picture, I see a girl who doesn’t know Jesus, but unbeknownst to her, is being wooed by Him. Less than a year later, Christ was my Lord.
Just like my own story, as I write Meg’s, I see how her narrative is pulling her to God. Being the author of the story has given me an entirely new perspective on seeing a person’s life from a bird’s eye view, which is, of course, exactly how God sees ours. He knows it all from beginning to end, and just like I’m doing with Meg, He uses the people, experiences, hopes, dreams, and heartbreaks to write the narratives of faith for those who are His. He is, after all, the author and finisher of our faith.
I don’t know this manuscript’s future. At one time, I thought I could never be a novelist. I thought, what if I spent all that time, and the story never got published? All that work, for nothing. All that time, wasted. But I was wrong. I’ve been reading through the book of Mark this past month, and this week I came to the story about the woman with the alabaster flask. Given my current state of affairs, the story struck me. The tale goes that a woman comes to Jesus, breaks a vial filled with expensive perfume, and pours it on His head as an act of love. Those witnessing the event scolded her for such an extravagant waste; the perfume could have been sold and given to the poor. But Jesus says, “Let her alone; why do you bother her? She has done a good deed to me. For you always have the poor with you, but you do not always have Me. She has done what she could…” If I pour out my costly time on this endeavor, as unto Christ, spending my heart and soul on something that honors Him, it’s of inestimable value in His economy.
I hope you get to meet Meg; she’s delightful, and her story is beautiful. But whether she has few or many readers, I have to believe there is purpose in writing it. Just as I look back and see the Lord’s redeeming hand over my past, I now look forward to His grace as I entrust Him with this manuscript. Because with God, nothing is wasted.