Three weeks ago, I attended the annual conference for the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW). More than 450 published and unpublished writers came together in Dallas for 2-3 days of learning, talking, and eating, sleeping (maybe) and breathing writing. Rubbing shoulders with Christian superstar authors like Bill Myers and Francine Rivers. The conference is exhilarating, exciting, and exhausting (as evidenced by the 3 naps I took the day after arriving home).
And inspiring. At a previous ACFW conference, I stood to worship, as we do after the meals. I looked over the crowd of writers and authors singing about God’s power to overcome, and couldn’t help being inspired and humbled that God would use us–simple wordsmiths–to accomplish His purposes, empowering us to work alongside Him.
This year, I was inspired in a different way.
Most writers have doubts about their abilities. I struggle every time I start to write a new book. How did I do this before? Why can’t I figure out the character’s goal and motivation? Is this really what I’m supposed to be doing? Wouldn’t I accomplish bigger and better things by actually being with people rather than sitting here by myself dreaming up stories of fake people and circumstances? Whatever made me think I could write?
During the conference, it’s not unusual for beginning authors like me to mingle with multi-published authors who have 20, 30 or more books to their credit. Rather than being (too) awestruck, I realized they didn’t get there without being where I am right now. I’m guessing they all had the same doubts and questions bouncing around their brains while trying to write their third, fourth, eighth, maybe even tenth book. If I may adapt a phrase, they write their stories one word at a time, just like I do.
The conference culminates with a formal dinner and award ceremony ACFW’s Genesis contest (for beginners) and Carol awards (for published novels). Winners are announced at the ceremony, and each one takes the stage to offer a short acceptance speech and claim their prize trophy. This year in the acceptance speeches, I heard the hours, months and years these authors have put into learning their craft, practicing and re-writing over and over and over. I heard the discouragement at times, and appreciation for mentors and critique partners offering encouragement and hope when the road seems too long. I heard the joy of accomplishment, when the effort becomes worth all the doubts and tears and fears.
As I drove home, a line from a song by Addison Road kept running through my mind. Lord, I’ve made You too small. Those doubts and fears? They’re happening because I keep focusing on my puny efforts and talents, and not on your amazing ability to accomplish the impossible through a weak earthen vessel. I’ve made You too small, by worrying about whether I can do this when I should be confident that You can do this. I’ve seen You work three times already, and since You’re eternal, I doubt You’ve run out of energy or of things to say. I’ve made You too small, but I’m starting to think big. Like a Carol Award. Like twenty books. No, thirty! Maybe forty!
Have you ever made God too small? Let me know in the comments. I’d love to encourage you to think Big!