Sometimes in the midst of the big plans and busy schedules I find myself brought to a standstill as He steps around a corner into my path. My trip to Austin was filled with these kind of interruptions. From the start, there was an atmosphere that I recognized but did not expect to find there. God's presence completely surround me and I found myself overwhelmed at times by it. It stunned me beyond an ability to describe it.
"It was only a writers' conference," you say. For me, it was so much more. The stories from other writers about their writing life, how it started and how they do it, and the encouragement to write filled a vacancy in my soul that I had not realized was there. When one of them stood up and said, "Your writing is your gift, given to you by your Father" I wanted to cry. It became the theme running through the whole conference. This is my gift. I write.
You may view your writing as your talent that you worked hard on and all credit is your's alone. I do not and have never felt that way. I've always felt that I did not even own the stories I wrote. They come from someplace that I'm unfamiliar with and can't describe. So when those words were uttered, they opened a floodgate of emotion and brought such a peace and understanding about why I am driven to write.
I came home with a different view of my gift and found I was more concerned with the act of writing. I suppose you could say I came back with a clearer vision and a more defined purpose and a desire to keep those feelings alive. I want to write.
I also found myself craving the kind of spiritual environment discovered at the conference. I don't think anyone there was of my faith but rather, they were a bunch of people who felt a calling to write. Most were writing Christian fiction. I don't write specifically Christian fiction. I like what I write to be clean enough your great grandmother wouldn't blush.
But it wasn't about that. It was a room filled with a Presence because the people there, from several denominations, were in some way inviting that Presence. God wasn't denominational that weekend. He wasn't picking and choosing who to touch. He just was there in the middle of lectures on publishing and writing! There were no profound spiritual statements, no erudite monographs on Biblical events, and no sermons on proper Christian values, characters, and behavior. And still, there He was, right in the middle of the business of writing.
This should happen to everyone. I rediscovered the pleasure I get in writing. More importantly, I came away with an intense craving to stay in the Presence of God, wherever I go and in every circumstance.
I'll be honest, I don't actually know how to do that. I don't know how it happened and I don't know how to recreate it. I have some pretty awful days filled with horrible stresses and pain that I can't begin to describe. You don't feel very close to God at those times and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't so angry at times, I can't even hear God or see Him. When all of your life hurts and you can't change it or fix it and there's no one to call, you feel about as isolated as it is possible to feel, as if you're on a distant, abandoned planet. You spend a lot of time searching for something to stop it all.
My experience at the conference showed me where I want to be and what I want to do. Everything in my life works against it. But like writing, you have to keep doing it. Keep pushing forward through pain, heartaches, and stress. Maybe up there, around the next bend, He's waiting.
Some people say God always walks beside you and you're always in His presence. I disagree. A lot of times He steps away or runs ahead and leaves you alone. I'm not sure why. Maybe He thinks you can handle the things you think you can't handle. If so, He has a lot more confidence in me that I do in myself.
Still, despite all the daily things that kill me mentally, spiritually, and physically, all I really know is that I long to be in a room saturated with that Presence. Indeed, I do not want to be anywhere else.