When I tell people I’m writing a novel, I’m met with either wry smiles or wide-eyed bewilderment, followed by the question, “Why not become a teacher or a journalist?”
It’s so common that I pre-empt the response. To be honest, I’m that not passionate about teaching, and the stories I want to tell aren’t the type that we hear every day.
Yet, what people ask me isn’t truly about journalism or teaching; it’s about money – money and security. “Why invest so much time writing a novel when you could be earning money teaching English or reporting for the New Zealand Herald?” My aspirations are being questioned because they seem unrealistic. Why take a risk when other career choices are so much more secure?
If money and stability came packaged with fulfilment, maybe I’d change my mind. After all, besides God, money is the next best thing, right? Except… money, in essence, is nothing more than paper and metal. It’s a tool, like staples and toothpicks. Money has its uses, but surely it’s better to pursue God than to pursue toothpicks?
Strange, then, that even Christians don’t take me seriously. “Alas,” they say, “you’re one man among seven billion. What hope do you have of publishing a book?” Well, for one, I have the Creator.
Pursuing your dreams by trusting God
The Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25 shows us that the talents we’ve been given are, by nature, the talents we’ve been called to pursue. It follows that, if writing is a talent I’ve been given, then it isn’t a risk to pursue it; it’s a responsibility – and a privilege. Therefore, since following this passion will be honouring to God, God will not only give me everything I need to pursue it, he’ll also make the attempt worthwhile. In short, if God can’t turn a risk into a reward, I don’t know what good toothpicks will do me.
Going against the grain isn’t always easy, however. I’m frequently pressured to question why I’m spending my time writing fiction when I could be saving for, say, a house. And, despite Jesus’s instructions, doubts still come and go, and motivations ebb and flow like the tide. Yet, every time that I’ve dabbled at the idea of shifting course, God has reminded me that I was never at a fork.
During a drought of motivation early last month, I asked God to strengthen my enthusiasm to write and to read. I told him that, if writing is truly a talent of mine, then I need to invest in it; and to invest in it fully, I need more enthusiasm. He answered my prayer within days. Since then, I’ve never been more certain that completing my novel is exactly what I should be doing, and the only way to keep up momentum is to work at it full-time.
For you, your passion might be as fundamental as giving, as colourful as painting, or something less obvious, like public speaking. In the light of this parable, the question I ask myself becomes rhetorical. Why opt for a career I won’t enjoy when the one I adore starts with the pen and paper on my desk?
Jesus calls us to be humble (Matthew 18:2-4), but an implicit Christian worldview whispers the idea that living in humility rules out having ambition. This worldview couldn’t be further from the truth. If you’ve discovered a passion, and if this passion is God-given (you know it’s God-given if it exists and it doesn’t go against God’s values), then you can be sure that pursuing it will honour God, and that he will bless you for it.
Doubts and fears cloud our ambitions; but if you take a moment, you’ll realise that the people who become successful, whether for righteous reasons or otherwise, are those who believe they can be successful – that is, those whose ambitions aren’t obscured by doubts. As Christians, we have an extra incentive to believe, namely a relationship with the Creator of the universe.
Attaining financial security is as useful as building a mountain of toothpicks; pursuing divine fulfilment is infinitely more worthwhile, but it can only begin by following the passions that God has placed in your heart.