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.
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.