The following is an essay I wrote for the Faith and Culture Writers Conference 2014. It is the essay that I mentioned in an earlier post that was scored 29/100 by one judge and 68.5/100 by the other. One of the comments I received from the first judge was that if the first sentence of the third paragraph was so important I should give it more than a passing mention. As I’ve thought about that comment this week, and struggled with whether to post this essay here, I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t need to say any more about the past than I have here. That is not my real story and the details aren’t that important. Rather, my story is the story of Redemption through Christ and to focus on the details of the past does not further that story.
Discovering My Purpose
We are all born with a unique purpose. I now know my purpose is to glorify God with my writing and poetry, but I didn’t always.
Writing is in my blood and is the backbone of much of what I have done in my life. Naturally, I pursued a career that involves writing—I became a lawyer and now hold the title Director of Legal Publications. I am also an avid blogger and poet for the Lord. But I’m getting ahead of myself. My journey towards realizing my purpose as a poet has involved walking through darkness and pain, which I often masked with my own personal achievement and pride.
I went to college largely to escape the small town I had grown up in, having been gravely wounded there. I pursued a political science major at a small liberal arts college, which required writing numerous long research papers and essay exams. I enjoyed the process of consulting diverse research sources and crafting cohesive arguments. Despite the admissions director’s warning that I would surely earn some C grades, I immersed myself in my studies and excelled, graduating in the top 11 percent of my class without one C.
Next, I attended law school and again thrived. Writing meticulously-cited research papers and briefs as well as challenging essay exams suited me. In fact, my first semester Contracts professor distributed copies of my final exam as an example of an A+ essay. I learned the IRAC writing method—IRAC stands for Issue, Rule, Analysis, and Conclusion. Because of my naturally organized writing style, I excelled and graduated cum laude. I was on my way to greater success!
During this time I believed in God but He took a backseat to my life and achievements. I was proud of my accomplishments and failed to recognize my writing ability was a God-given talent. I had great knowledge about writing, but I didn’t have wisdom to know what He had created me to write.
After law school I accepted an associate position at a small construction law firm. I was thrust into a world where writing was not the key to success as I had assumed it would be for any lawyer. Meanwhile, the small-town past I had buried under mounds of academic achievements caught up with me and I took a nosedive into major clinical depression. My boss and I “agreed” that this firm was not right for me; I found myself looking for another job. I landed one easily enough, but it didn’t last either.
For the next six years I battled with depression, with the devil himself, trying to find myself and get back on track. During this time most of my writing was private journaling—primarily rants about how hopeless my life was. I wrote a few poems, but they weren’t very good and were quite self-focused. For example, I wrote this untitled poem:
The me that no one knows
writes poetry and prose
The me that people see
writes briefs in legalese
The me that no one knows
seeks counseling for my woes
The me that people see
pretends I’m always pleased
There’s really only one of me
but different sides I reveal
depending on the circumstances
or how I think I should feel
I tried medication and counseling to find relief from depression, all to no avail. My doctor told me that I would be on antidepressants for the rest of my life, though I couldn’t see how they were helping me. I researched depression, trying to find the answer, and came across a book titled, “The Broken Brain.” Reading it, I concluded that my brain, the thing upon which I had hung my professional hat, was irreparably broken. I felt helpless and hopeless, to the point of contemplating ending my life, thinking my husband and young son would be better off without a wife and mother who was so broken.
And this is where God stepped in through the kindness of a Christian friend who invited me to Bible study. During that months-long study of Ezra and Nehemiah, God brought me back from my exile into darkness and depression. He taught me that it was not my brain that was broken, but my heart and my soul. He showed me that anger and unforgiveness I had been harboring for over 15 years drove my depression. He gave me wisdom and strength to forgive. He healed my brokenness and gave me hope. He became my Light, my Rock, and my Redeemer. I learned to boast in Him, not myself. (Jeremiah 9:23-24.)
Not long after, God led me to an unadvertised position as managing editor of a legal newsletter. I was writing again! That position became a stepping stone to my current position in legal publishing, which I love. But still something was missing in my life. I was not passionate about what I was writing at work. In my managerial position, sharing God’s gift of salvation was not appropriate. I longed for a spiritual outlet for my writing.
In September 2009, through a series of God-orchestrated events, I started blogging. Initially, I wrote short essays about faith, life, music, and forgiveness. I was blessed to become part of an active community of Christian bloggers. I had long given up on being a poet, but as I befriended other Christian blogging poets I was encouraged to try my hand at Christian poetry.
I started small with acrostic poems for holidays. Then I ventured into writing poems about thankfulness for my Thankful Thursday theme day. Finally, I found my voice—my purpose—and began to express how God had rescued me from the darkness and despair of depression through His forgiveness and grace. A favorite of my poems is one titled Learning to Forgive.
Someone I don’t know commented on my blog: “thank you for writing this if i didn’t read this when i did i never would have been able to forgive my father for what he has done. so thank you again.” This heartfelt, healing response to one poem that God had led me to write blessed me with a greater feeling of accomplishment and purpose than all of my academic and professional writing combined. I finally realized that my purpose in this life is to share God’s grace and love, to give voice to lost souls struggling in the darkness, in need of the light of Christ to bring them healing. At last I was being used by God for His glory.
Since embarking on my poetic journey, I have focused on two things: truth and craftsmanship. First, and foremost, everything I write must be true to who God is and true to the valley of the shadow of death He has walked through with me. I rely on the Holy Spirit to give me the best words to convey healing wisdom and truth. At times, particularly during periods when I have challenged myself to write daily, I have prayed specifically for what to write and the Lord has been faithful to place in my mind the first stanza and framework of a beautiful poem.
Second, I desire to hone my poetic craftsmanship, so God’s truth is clearly and beautifully communicated to those who need His healing grace. I’ve read poetry blogs with lessons on various forms of poetry, such as triolets, pantoums, and trireme sonnets. I love writing poetry to form because it utilizes the structured writing skills I learned in college and law school, and more importantly because it beautifully conveys that He is a God of order, not chaos. This triolet melds repetition, meter, and rhyme for a reminder of who Christ is and who we are in Christ.
I am blessed to have discovered my purpose. “Now the one who has fashioned [me] for this very purpose is God, who has given [me] the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” 2 Corinthians 5:5.