When Faith Meets Fear

Where do you get your security?

Less than a week ago, I babysat for 7 hours and started getting this uncomfortable feeling that I was wasting my time.

I’ve been babysitting/nannying pretty regularly since moving home in June, and it’s been steady work: great kids, predictable income, and a big improvement over minimum wage. I felt like it was a step in the right direction of becoming self-supporting.

Then, early this week, the Holy Spirit’s sharp elbows started to get in the way.

I made a chart, documenting where my time went each week. When I first started working, babysitting seemed like a small time investment with a big payoff. But when I finished the chart, I realized how little time I’ve actually spent writing this month. Those babysitting hours were coming directly out of my writing time.

That led to a series of small spiritual crises. In my neat, tidy little life plan, working as a babysitter/nanny would smoothly give way to a paying job as an editor, freelance writer, or ideally, Great American Novelist. However, I’m realizing that you don’t become Paid Writer until you actually write. You can’t write without time. And if your time is going to changing diapers and channel surfing through episodes of Dora the Explorer, you’re not even moving in the direction of Paid Writer.

However, beginning writers are not on anyone’s payroll. This week I was confronted with a crossroads between keeping my steady, predictable paycheck and moving in God’s direction for my life. In essence, it came down to the question, “Where do you get your security?”

File:Crossroad in winter 2.jpg

Funny enough, I found that God has a word or two to say about security this week. Isaiah 31:1:

“Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, 
who rely on horses, 
who trust in the multitudes of their chariots 
and in the great strength of their horsemen, 
but do not look to the Holy One of Israel 
or seek help from the Lord.” 


Choosing to ignore the uncomfortable feeling and continue babysitting would be relying on chariots and horses. “If I have an income,” goes the thinking, “I have independence, I have control over my future, and I’m secure.” Funny thinking, because anyone who’s lived through this recession would laugh at that line. Like a pipe dreamer, however, I was living by it.

Choosing to quit babysitting would mean going out on a limb for God, to follow the purpose for which He’s uniquely designed me. I don’t know how long it will take me to earn money by writing; I don’t even know if I’ll make it (financially) as a writer. I do know that I certainly won’t if I don’t take time to write. I also know that a part of me suffocates if I ignore the thing I was made to do.

I was scared. Scared to give up the known, however mediocre, for the unknown, however glorious. Even the illusion of control dies hard.

A Longfellow line I read this week helped give me clarity:

“Our faith triumphant o’er our fears.”

The breakthrough was realizing that you’re not a failure at faith if fear still gives you stomachaches. It’s good news, because the two were wrestling fiercely in me, like the famous Gollum and Smeagol in The Lord of the Rings. Paralyzed at this crossroads, I begged God to give me courage to overcome my slimy, wheedling, comfort-loving but surprisingly strong inner coward and do the right thing.

He did.

Today I gave my employer one month’s notice. As of the end of November, I will be working only at pursuits that relate to writing: revising my novel, submitting articles to magazines, freelance editing, and tutoring English. I came home grinning and feeling like the Incredible Hulk.

Faith is the hard choice. But it brings a rushing sense of purpose. Today, my security comes from the One who called me to write, and He is faithful.

So how about you? Where do you get your security? I’d love to hear your story!

Living with Bifocals

Those of you who spend time with me in person have probably heard too much of this analogy, but I like this one. I keep thinking that living life is like wearing bifocals.
Bifocals give you the ability to see at two distances. When you’re driving, they allow you to both scan the road and check your speedometer. When you’re speaking, they help you see both the notes in front of you and the audience you’re there to address. Things that are right under your nose and things that are more distant.
What brought this up is my job search. I’ve known I wanted to be a writer since I was fourteen, when I started composing my first novel by hand in a purple journal. When you’re fourteen, it’s easy to follow the advice “dream big!” because you live in a state of sweet ignorance about things like bills and taxes and insurance. My plans were purely long-term and big-picture.
In college, though, the message changed. Be realistic. Get a job. Interviews. Resumes. Monster.com. There are things called rent and health insurance and groceries that actually cost money. Ack! My focus shifted to the immediate needs of a self-supporting adult.
After graduating, I was blessed enough to be able to move back in with my mom, relieving the immediate pressure of bills while I searched for work, although I still felt the tension of long-term versus short-term concerns. It was the headache in every decision I made. I was presented with a full-time teaching job, some technical writing opportunities, and the opportunity to be a private English tutor, among others. Status symbols and material luxury aren’t important to me, but becoming financially independent and “proving” that I’m not going to be the 30-year-old bum in my mom’s basement are.
For me, the temptation to grab at instant security was almost overwhelming—is almost overwhelming, daily. Teaching full-time would pay my bills and then some. I could move out, get my own apartment right now. Tempting. But spending all my time on that would leave none for writing. Moving out immediately isn’t worth that sacrifice.
How do I not lose sight of the dream, the long-term goals, while still providing for my immediate needs? Do I have to choose between them? Is there a way to do both?
Here’s where the bifocals analogy comes in. Focusing only on the now would preclude following God’s will for my life and take away my sense of long-term purpose. But focusing only on the dream in the distance might make me the bum in my mom’s basement.
So I said yes to tutoring. I started working with my students this week. They’re a lot of fun, each one different. Yes, it is a time investment, especially now as I scramble to understand lesson plans, curriculum, and educational philosophy, but I think that will level out with time. Other than that, it takes care of my immediate bills and also leaves some time for writing, which is where I want to be in 20 years (though hopefully less J). It’s a bifocal job.
In Matthew 6, Jesus weighs the near-far tension like this: “So do not worry, saying ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you as well.”
I read this to mean: don’t run after temporary things—don’t cop out on the dream of being a writer for the security of an immediate teaching job. This doesn’t mean ignoring the necessity of immediate things—even God knows we need them. Just put him first. First. Put the farsighted bifocal on top. He’ll take care of the rest.