“When I am dust, sing these words over my bones.
She was a voice.”
—Ana in The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd
When I first read those words in The Book of Longings, I felt myself recoil. I wouldn’t say that. It’s too out there, too presumptuous, too vain. Yes, Ana, the woman in the novel that spoke them was out there and presumptuous, but she wasn’t vain. Her passion to write led her away from the lives other people were living to live her own. She listened to her deep longing to give voice to the largeness inside herself and others who had no voice in their society.
“Lord our God, hear my prayer, the prayer of my heart. Bless the largeness inside me, no matter how I fear it. Bless my reed pens and my inks. Bless the words I write. May they be beautiful in your sight. May they be visible to eyes not yet born. When I am dust, sing these words over my bones: she was a voice.”
“What is our largeness?” someone asked our book group. Again I felt a recoiling. It seemed obvious to the other women that for me it was my writing. But I didn’t want it to be. I wanted it to be something we all share. That felt much safer.
Last week I went for a run and listened to this podcast by Marie Forleo. Marie asked the question, “What do you really want?” Then she told the story of a single mother that wanted to write. She faced numerous obstacles to become the biggest selling fiction writer of all time. My inner critic instantly reacted. “You’re just deluding yourself if you think you could do what J.K Rowling did. You’re not that good of a writer.”
As if she heard my thoughts, Marie asked, “What are the things you are saying to yourself that get in the way?”
I remember what a big deal it was to let go of being a pastor so I could offer spiritual direction and write. As a pastor, I kept giving myself away and doing a lot of good things, leaving little time for the longing within. Now, seven years later, I’m writing more. I’ve published two books, but my calendar is so full of other good things, there is little space for me to format and publish my third book.
I’ve always said that I don’t have to be famous or make millions on my writing. If my books and blog posts help one person, that’s enough. But now I wonder: what if my limiting beliefs are holding me back? What if I don’t invest more in my writing because I’m afraid to pray Ana’s prayer. I’m afraid people will roll their eyes and think, “She wanted to be a voice, all right. And she was–a boring, predictable, unskilled, unimportant, scratchy voice.”
That fear is holding me back. It goes on to say, “Who do you think you are, anyway? Your voice is no more special than any other. Do you really believe your writing will appeal to a bigger audience?”
My fears are loud and pointed.
But God doesn’t shush my critical thoughts or anxious feelings. Love just holds me and listens. Eventually, I am reminded of more than one person who told me how my writing has freed them to be themselves. “You were a voice to them,” God says.
The Book of Longings is an imaginative account of Ana, the wife of Jesus. It is her story alongside his. Both had a largeness in them that led them through death and resurrection (Ana more than once!). In this season of Lent, I ask myself, What would it be like to truly own the God-given passion seeded in me and do what I was created to do? Isn’t that what Jesus died for?
Bless the largeness inside me, no matter how I fear it.
–Sue Monk Kidd
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You may be thinking, Really, in Lent you want me to look at my passion, my longings, my largeness? Shouldn’t I be thinking of others, following Jesus, and sacrificing myself as he did? What if following your God-given desires is the best way you can care for others and follow Jesus? Doing that takes courage, sacrifice, and a lot of dying to the person others want you to be and the person you think you should be. Our fourth Lenten question is: What are you dying for? When you are gone, what will you leave behind that will continue to bring life, hope, and healing?