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 not that 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 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 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.
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.
However, going against the grain isn’t always easy. I’m frequently pressured to question why I’m spending my time writing fiction when I could be saving for a house (for example). And, despite Jesus’ instructions, doubts still come and go, and motivations ebb and flow like the tide. Yet every time I’ve dabbled with the idea of shifting course, God has reminded me that I was never at a fork. 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.
Pursuing divine fulfilment is infinitely worthwhile, but it can only begin by following the passions that God has placed in your heart.