I have this index card on my desk, and on it is scrawled a line from Hamilton:
I’ll write my way out.
I don’t know if you’ve listened to the soundtrack from this brilliant musical—I’d highly recommend that you do—but you can still understand. Alexander Hamilton was a genius, a writer, and his writing had always saved him, rescued him. Then he fell, and he thought that if he wrote, like he always had, it would redeem him.
It didn’t. It just made things worse.
Ultimately, he couldn’t write his way out. He declares, “And when my prayers to God were met with indifference / I picked up a pen, I wrote my own deliverance.” But all he ended up doing was digging his own grave deeper.
In the end, he did pray. And God answered. And God delivered.
So I have that line on an index card where I can see it because I am so often tempted to rely on myself, on my writing, to save me. To give me worth. To calm my fears. To light up the future. To bring me joy. I try desperately to write my way out of my sin and fears and failures. Sometimes, it seems to work. But in the end, the words will betray me.
Maybe you are not a writer. Maybe you sing or act or paint or debate or play soccer. The same thing will happen: That which you idolize will betray you. You can try to sing, play, paint, fill-in-the-blank your way out, but that thing you rely on for salvation will eventually desert you. Even destroy you.
The words don’t have to betray me. If I only put writing in its right position, then it will blossom and bless. But that “grace too powerful to name”—that God whose name is I Am Who I Am—that is what must be first. Only when writing comes under Him can it be used for good. He made writing, after all. And He made me. Who am I to think I can put something else ahead of Him?
I guess sometimes this sort of thing sounds all good in theory, but how do you actually, you know, live it? I’m sorry to disappoint, but I don’t have all the answers, and I don’t think there’s a five-step list out there that can help, either.
But I do think it’s things like praying before you write that God will do what He wants with it—giving God the credit when praised for your writing and accepting both praise and blame humbly—guarding your time with God, not letting even writing knock it off the schedule—literally going to God first about things that you’re worried or happy or upset about before you try to solve them or react to them on your own—things like that are in the right direction.
You can’t write your way out, writers. But I think you’ll find that if you hand over the pen to the Author of all, He’ll give it back, ready to be used for some beautiful purpose.