In the Belly of the Beast

I started a new routine this week, of rising at 4 a.m. to stretch and make coffee, then sitting down to write before the family rises to start the day. Getting up each day has gone well, stretching has been adequate, and coffee is always good. But the last thing I wrote for public consumption was Monday’s post, which in truth I wrote over the weekend.

Three days with no posts. Yesterday I found myself melancholy in mood and frustrated in prayer. I am doing exactly what I set out to do: putting my experience and gifts to work for the church. I have freedom, flexibility, and just enough money. So why, when I am free to write, do I have so little to share?

This morning, I sat down to pray before writing. Once again, my initial thought was that I have nothing to say. But as I prayed, I noticed something that put the fear of God in me—and, providentially, provided me a topic.

* * * * *

In a dim corner in back of my mind, a place without windows or warmth or beauty, a single lamp burns atop a worn wooden desk, where sits a little balding man with a pinched face and sour expression, sifting ideas and rejecting them one by one. He is muttering under his breath, but if I draw near I can hear him: “No, no, no…no one wants more of that…nor that…nor that. No good. Sappy and too religious. God, God, God…all he talks about is God. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph! Is there nothing else?”

He looks up and sees me. He is not startled or embarrassed, but says simply, “Maybe you should read this morning. Finish a book and write about that. Fiction, preferably. Or the little one or the pup—surely one of them has done something precious you can share. Only no God. Give it a rest for a day or two.”

* * * * *

 

The word of the LORD came to Jonah, a son of Amittai: Set out for the great city of Nineveh, and preach against it; for their wickedness has come before me. But Jonah made ready to flee to Tarshish, away from the LORD. — Jonah 1:1-3

I’d like to pretend the pinched-face little man is not me. But he is, and he sits at that lonely desk, joylessly stamping out joy. Why have I not written these past few days? Not because I am blocked or have no ideas. It’s because everything I have to share is of God, and my editorial “friend” is afraid I will be ignored or rejected. Or worse yet, branded: He’s one of those Bible thumping, holy-than-thou types. A goody-two-shoes. A Jesus freak.

Like Jonah, I believe God wants to me to spread His word. Like Jonah, I sometimes turn and run away, because like so many of the prophets in Scripture, I am afraid of what people will think.

And for the past three days, I’ve been in the belly of the beast.

This morning, the great fish belched me up on dry land, and I am turning my face toward Nineveh. I have so much on my heart to share with you. Yes, it concerns God, God, God. And Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. And all the saints. It has changed my life, and I cannot keep it to myself or “even the stones will cry out” (Luke 19:40).

“My life flows on in endless song/Above earth’s lamentation/I hear the sweet, though far-off hymn/That hails a new creation” — “How Can I Keep From Singing”

 

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