On January 1, 2018, things were not looking good for the new year.
My dad died on December 30. I was also in the middle of a months’ long treatment for a chronic illness, and the treatment had left me with ongoing physical symptoms and mood changes. With all of this swirling around me, my demanding job felt 10 times harder. It was too much.
If you had asked me to list my top 25 goals for the year, “writing a book” wouldn’t have been one of them — not by a long shot. I didn’t have the time, the will, or the energy to do it. God wasn’t working off of my timetable though.
On February 14, our cousin Tina and her husband, Josh, drove down from Connecticut for a surprise visit — and it truly was a surprise. Josh and Tina are two of the busiest people I know, but suddenly they had the impulse to drive all the way down to Washington in the middle of the week to stay with us for no particular reason.
In for a Shocker
During dinner Josh made a suggestion that would be the start of a new chapter in my life (literally). He said, “You know, you’ve written some beautiful stuff about marriage. Have you ever thought about taking your articles and making a book out of them?”
Josh and I ended up having a brainstorming session about what a book about marriage might look like. By the time our conversation was over, I had a jumbled set of notes and a vague goal of authoring a book at some point.
Three days later, Fox News shared a piece I wrote about marriage. When a Facebook follower named Vincent read it, he sent me a message in which he thanked me for my writing and said, “I think you should write a book with all of your articles. It will certainly help a lot of couples.”
I took note — two times in three days. What if God was trying to tell me something?
About an hour later, I called Fox News and talked to one of the editors after I noticed a small error in the piece. The editor made the change and ended the conversation by saying, “Have you ever thought about taking your articles and making a book out of them?”
By that point, I was convinced that God was speaking to me — three people in three days making the very same suggestion: “Take your articles and make a book out of them.” At that point, my answer was, “OK, God! Where do I start?”
I wrote a friend and told him that I felt certain that God wanted me to write a book but I knew I would need an agent to get a good publisher. So, in the email, I committed to doing what it would take to find one. I didn’t have to do anything at all.
Only 30 minutes later, a well-respected book agent was sitting in the airport with his wife, who read my piece on Fox News and said, “Have you ever heard of this guy? He’s got some good stuff.” The agent read through some of my writing and immediately contacted me via email and said, “Would you be open to a conversation about working with an agency like ours to write a book? This would be our honor.” I signed a contract with his agency the next week.
As you can imagine, I was in a bit of shock.
Not What I Expected
After that whirlwind of confirmations, I got started on the book proposal with gusto. It seemed like everything was falling into place for me and I figured that all I needed to do was — well, take all of my articles and make a book out of them. I quickly discovered that it’s one thing to write 600-word pieces on marriage, and it’s a whole other thing to take the ideas from those pieces and expand them into a 45,000-word book.
Over the next ten months, the burdens on our family life became unbearably heavy, due to a number of different unexpected stresses, in addition to the book. The journey of writing the book seemed that it would never end. It felt as though I was crawling through a desert, tortured by personal word-count goals that came and went like a mirage. I would agonize over one word choice, only to rewrite the entire sentence later — or, even worse, I would spend countless hours on a chapter, only to delete the whole thing (as I already had a couple of times before).
The rare moments I enjoyed working on the book happened over the past few weeks when I would reread a chapter and think, “Wow, I actually like chapter.” Those moments happened more and more often as I drew closer to the deadline to turn in the final manuscript. Finally, when I read through the entire book for the last time, I thought, “I like that book. I would read it.” I wasn’t sure what God was going to do with it, but I believed I had given all I could to fulfill my calling to write the book.
I don’t know what God has called you to do. Maybe you’re afraid that you haven’t been called anything significant. It’s impossible. Whatever that thing may be, it isn’t small — I mean, think about it: If the God of the universe thought it was big enough to call you to it, then it’s huge. It doesn’t have to be a specific thing like I was asked to do either. There are plenty of ways that God wants to use Scripture to speak to your particular calling (for example, by directing you to operate in a spiritual gift you have). Maybe you’ve chosen a calling that simply involves doing something that you enjoy.
Calling always comes at a cost though. The calling to be a stay-at-home parent means bearing the burden of being unseen. Accepting the call to teaching usually means a low salary and being underappreciated. Your calling to evangelism will inevitably come with being rejected. The calling to hospitality probably means you’ll end up being used.
In those moments when all romantic notions of your calling have evaporated, there’s one thing you’ve got left; and it’s encapsulated in this prayer I kept praying as I pushed myself forward in writing the book: “God, I’m doing this for You. Please God, please somehow use this for Your glory.”
If that’s all you’ve got to give as you walk in your calling, I believe God will honor that. That place of desperation is where He wants us. It’s a heart posture of complete trust that He’s the only one who can make our efforts matter — and He does.
Confessions of a Happily Married Man: Finding God in the Messiness of Marriage will be released in December. I’ll keep you updated on it. If you’d like a weekly email with an update about what I’ve written, click here.