Gifts in Weakness

Gifted in Weakness

For a long time, I have struggled with a lack of self-confidence and weak faith in God’s call to write. Several years ago when I was making my annual eight-day retreat, I decided to put the painful question of writing completely aside. But one day, I was asked to pray with the passage about the rich young man who queries Jesus with that important question, “Good Master, what must I do to gain eternal life?” As I prayed, the question I really wanted to ask poured out, “Beloved Master, what must I do to draw closer to You, to live more fully in You?” At that moment, I was flooded with the sense of being loved and a compelling invitation to let go of the doubts and insecurities that haunted me about my writing.

The memory of this prayer has carried me through many blank screens and frozen panics. But I sometimes still struggle with both typical and not-so-typical insecurities and doubts in my writing life.

Another challenge I face as a writer is my need to be selective about what I accept as a writing assignment. I find it impossible to write about stuff that I’m not passionate about. Although I write on many topics, and within many genres, each of my books has come from my personal experience. Even with the newest books I’m co-authoring—on the lives of the saints–I had to find ways to connect personally with every saint as I wrote about.

I have struggled with both of these writing weaknesses—my insecurity and my need to be passionate about my topics. Through the years, I have realized that God has surprised me by revealing the gifts within these weaknesses.

My insecurity compels me to bring every piece of writing to prayer. I’m not saying that it’s easy to continue to struggle with my self-doubt. But it is a grace for me and for my readers that prayer accompanies every piece I write. If my self-doubt fosters a greater dependence on God, perhaps it is in truth one of the greatest graces I have received.

The need to bring my personal passion to everything I write is also still challenging. I can’t just accept any assignment, and I have to work very hard at choosing my projects so that I won’t run out of steam or become blocked. But this need that is so restrictive has a hidden side: it seems to have become an important way that God uses to lead me to discern which subjects I’m supposed to be writing about. (My passion has another side to it as well: it’s also my secret for finishing what I’m working on.)

One of my favorite themes in Saint Paul is that in our weakness we can find God’s strength. (Check out 2 Corinthians 9 for Paul’s personal example.) I think this paradox is partly true because when we recognize our weakness, we crack open a space for God to enter in. But it also seems to be the way that God works with humanity. How much sense does it make for God to save the world by taking on our humanity, with all its limitations? Yet, in his very weakness, Jesus reveals the power of God. Jesus’ death—his ultimate vulnerability—becomes our salvation.

If God allows our writing to have its weaknesses—and all of us can become better writers—then God must also want to work through those weaknesses, however unexpectedly. Accepting our weaknesses is the first step to discovering how God wants to work through them and through us.

About Sr. Marie Paul Curley

Sr. Marie Paul Curley, fsp, is a member of the Daughters of Saint Paul, who seek to communicate Christ in their lives and through the media. Originally from the Boston area, she entered the Daughters of St. Paul while a teenager, convinced that she had discovered God’s plan for her life. Twenty-five years later, she still rejoices daily in God’s loving plan for her. Sr. Marie Paul is currently missioned in Boston, MA, where she writes for Pauline Digital and Pauline Studios. Her most recent books, Saints Alive! The Faith Proclaimed and Saints Alive! The Gospel Witnessed, are novelized short stories of saints from every walk of life.
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8 Responses to Gifts in Weakness

  1. Years ago I heard the expression, “Let Go and Let God.” I have tried to remember to do just that. In reading the Diary of St. Faustina and the Book Mother Theresa – Come Be My Light, one thing is absolutely clear. Both of these great Saints understood that God is Everything and We are nothing. That is not a put down for humanity just an honest and humble truth. Yet in our nothingness, God deigns to use us to bring about His works of Creation. Think of the joy a young son gets when Dad lets him help with grownup work. Multiply that by infinity to grasp the act of kindness God shows us by letting us participate with him.

    I try to pray daily and frequently as I undertake any task. It is usually a silent prayer that no one else hears. I sometimes even remind God of what He already knows, I can’t do anything without Him. Then I ask Him to use me as He wills. Self doubts – yep I have them, sometimes they feel like Buzzards in my stomach.

    Lord I believe – Help my unbelief !

    • Great advice, Dennis. I think insecurities in writing come up because it is a process that we cannot control. And anytime things are out of our control and we’re honest with ourselves, we recognize our littleness, our “creaturehood” and absolute dependence on God. But I’ve also come to realize that true humility is really the greatest strength, as we root ourselves in the absolute fidelity of God. Writing keeps us humble…that’s a great post for another time.

  2. Linda Ballard says:

    I’ve been working on the same book for years! Every rewrite seems to take me to levels in my faith that surprise me, and I wonder sometimes who is actually writing this book. I certainly don’t trust myself, and maybe I fear finishing the work, I don’t know. Perhaps, I fear succeeding, but I sure feel weak and helpless. Praying for you, Sister.

    • Linda,
      Thank you for the prayers! My first book took ten years to write…it was the book I “learned on,” but it was also an effort to share the richness of the spirituality that I lived by. Sounds like the Holy Spirit is actively engaged in your book; I will keep you in prayer as well!

  3. Bud Bruskewicz says:

    Thank you for this blog post.
    I struggle with the same obstacles – lack of confidence and the inability to write about something of which I am not passionate. Increased prayer is definitely a great side effect of these ‘weaknesses’!
    If you get a moment, say a prayer for all those like myself – a lay person just starting out as a Catholic writer.
    God bless!

    • Dear Bud,
      It’s part of my mission as a Daughter of St. Paul to pray for Catholic communicators, so I will be praying for you. How exciting it is to be “at the start” of developing your writing…I will be praying for you in a special way. God bless.

  4. Ester le Roux says:

    Thank you for writing from your heart about your insecurities. I take heart when I read your words.