I’ve always thought, how can I write when there are people who hate me? If I’m going to say something right and true and ground it in the Word of God, shouldn’t my life be in order first? Shouldn’t I be able to say that I have healthy relationships that are either mended by closure or growing and flourishing? Isn’t it essential to prove that I “practice what I preach” and also demonstrate that it works?
What a terrific standard to trying living up to, right? Zero relational hardships. That’s just barely on this side of impossible, I’d say. I wish very much that it were possible and I do go through temporary delusions that it might be, but reality is never far behind.
Some of my scarred relationships are earned. I either didn’t love the person well enough, or without meaning to I caused them harm. Other times, I’ve done nothing wrong and tried at all cost to respond well in an uncomfortable situation no matter how difficult, becoming a “yes” person and appeasing to the point of losing myself entirely. While playing this role I’ve discovered that it’s easy to let someone else dominate both the conversation and the direction of the relationship. That’s also not healthy, and it’s certainly not thriving.
If I’m fairer with myself I realize that I do have healthy, thriving relationships. The fact that some aren’t doesn’t take away from those that are. I am only half of every relationship, and the ugly truth about a broken world is that the other side doesn’t always want closure or growth. The beautiful truth of God however is that when both sides do practice His love in relationship, it does work, and I can certainly demonstrate that.
Ultimately, whether I’m relationally successful or I’m not has very little to do with whether I’m capable of doing what I know I’m called by God to do. For the sake of God’s Holy reflection, I wish that everyone who took on the task of writing apologetically had a perfect testimony of grace, forgiveness, redemption, and restoration. I certainly wish my own story was more tidy. But when I dig into the lives of some of my long-dead writing mentors – AW Tozer, CS Lewis, JRR Tolkien – I find that these people have messy histories. One was considered a cold, absent father by at least 2 of his children, and those were the ones willing to be interviewed. Another refused love to the person closest to him for much of their relationship. All of them were faithless men as adults before discovering Christ.
This was a blow to the way I viewed these people at first. I recognized that God deserves better characters defending Him. But who are the better people for the job? Where are the ones with perfect records? If they existed, we’d certainly want to hear from them, wouldn’t we? Try opening the Bible. It’s the only work done by perfect hands, perfect minds, and perfect love. If after starting there we still need additional insight into how God’s Word interacts with the human experience, we have no choice but to turn to the prayerfully led but still-flawed thoughts of another broken person.
Lewis and Tozer are some of the voices that have shaped our modern understanding of what God is trying to reveal through his ancient Scriptures. The Bible hasn’t changed, but our grasp of what it means for us today has been filtered through these men’s lives. Their understandings aren’t perfect. Their relationships weren’t whole. Their own hearts were never mended in some cases. But we do not fail to recognize the wisdom in what they shared when they put aside their failings and let God’s Word do a lot of the talking. We received from them a body of human expression that makes Scripture that much richer and more approachable. The things they had to say were not God’s own words, but they honored God’s Word by defending it, applying it to everyday life, and even by failing to live up to it.
Isn’t it amazing how you can bring glory to God’s truth even by failing it? In humility, we separate our choices from the Bible in those moments and say, “That one was all me. That’s what I look like when I walk without the Lord.” It doesn’t break the standard, it upholds the standard. Being a fool for God is immeasurably better than being falsely thought wise. The admission of failure serves to point toward God’s perfection.
So can I have a broken relationship (or three) and still write? Yes. It’s taken a long time to resolve this issue in my heart, but I finally came to a place where I realized that if I stopped following where I understood God to be leading, it would mean that my failures were greater than what He can accomplish through me. It was my mistake for believing that my works could ever get in the way of His. At most, I’m a footnote on just one page, appearing in a single chapter of His book on eternity. Insignificance never feels as good as the moment realize you simply can’t make a mistake bigger than God can redeem.