Friday, January 4, 2013

Twelve Things I Learned in 2012, Part 2: The Back Half-Dozen

I posted six things I learned in 2012 on Wednesday, but as you can tell from the title, I owed you all six more. These are very different lessons than those already presented, and they too will inform my decisions regarding intentional living in 2013.

7) I have developed the discipline of writing, though I have not yet perfected it. I wrote for at least 20 minutes or more on 239 days of 2012 (taking off July and August due to the move), hitting 65% of days in the calendar year. While some of these were barely over the 20-minute mark, others were over 4-hours, and I hit a variety of sessions in between those lengths. Not bad. My overall hours, however, were lacking. Bear in mind for two-thirds of the year, I had a full-time job, so my writing time was more limited, and I took time off in July and August; but in total, if I were to have made a job of my writing, I would have worked 568.5 hours for the year, only 11.6 hours a week on average, 49 weeks out of the year. Not great for someone who thinks himself self-disciplined. In fact, when you look at the hours in perspective, I would have been working less than a half-time position. I will need to step that up in 2013.

8) Which brings me to my second point, I know I have more than one novel in me. Though I spent the bulk of my writing time from October 2011-November 2012 completing Stronghold, I also wrote a full-length 50,000 word novel in 30 days. Like I said here, the work is neither altogether good nor promising, but given the manner in which it was created, it's not altogether awful either. In fact, I may be able to salvage major portions of this second outing and create something of genuine merit, if  can "go to back formula" and really make the type of difficult, time-consuming edits that are necessary. That being said, I really think I may be able to make something of writing if I continue to maintain my discipline. If I can get a good agent, a stable of readers who can provide constructive and timely feedback, and a solid editor, I truly believe I could release a book a year (completing a first draft each November for NanoWriMo and refining it the following 12 months for a Christmastime release the following year). This could serve as an ancillary revenue stream and ministry opportunity, even if I cannot make writing my full time gig (inasmuch as I would enjoy doing so).

9) Life-choices tend to be harder than we expect. You can see posts regarding this effect here, here, here, and here; but overall, the bottom line is that I have learned in a very real, daily sense that being led by the Lord is not all sunshine and roses. In fact it feels often like clouds and thistles, but Christ is there to cover you in the storm and bandage your spiritual, emotional, and social wounds. As I seek to serve and love Christ more intentionally with each passing day from now through eternity, I am very grateful for this lesson learned in 2012.

10) Given the amount of those aforementioned wounds I have sustained in the last four months, I have also realized that my heart breaks more often than I expect. I would not call myself a person of great depth; but in my shallowness, things strike me and affect me in severe ways. I feel things, and the pain I carry takes root. It can, if unchecked, filter into my life holistically, at times to my detriment. While I do not shed tears as often as I would like (for I find crying to be immensely valuable), I do sit and brood with a certain level of intensity, and those feelings tend to have a very real effect on my overall attitude. I am not entirely sure what this means, but I have tried to harness it constructively in 2012, writing during these times rather than moping. We shall see how I fare in the coming year.

11) Some of this turmoil I have described has come from something I did not expect: fellow Christians and their response to my sharing about my relationship with the Lord. I have a grave warning, as much for myself as anyone reading this: people do not believe you when you tell them the truth about your fellowship with God. Whether this is skepticism, cynicism, or ignorance, I do not know; but you will speak to people about your meaningful and formative spiritual experiences, and they will downplay them. This is a given with non-believers clearly; but with persons who claim to be Christian, I find this unsettling. Should not fellow believers be the individuals who back one another on this sort of thing? One would assume so but find themselves discouraged. On more than one occasion, I have told professing Christians what God is doing in my life, only to have them either downplay or rationalize it as not spiritually authentic but simply personally significant, as if God is not really working but I am just using him as a cover for some other motivator or a blanket go-to in the face of uncertainty. Frankly, I find said reaction to be not only insulting to me but God also, and I am amazed and somewhat wounded that I have encountered said sentiment among those who claim to be believers. Regardless, I will keep telling the truth as best I know how and trust God to use it as he chooses.

12) Finally, and this is something of a blanket statement, but I feel both closer to God and more sinful than I have in 2012 than perhaps any other year of my life. I have learned very clearly that for every sanctified step forward, I am twenty steps from where I want and ought to be; and I oftentimes take steps backward without even realizing it in the moment. This applies to an endless list of vices and follies, not the least of which are my unkind jests at another's expense, my immense greed and covetousness, my pride and self-aggrandizement, and my envy. It's a funny thing, really. I have spent 2012 writing a text on battling a stronghold of lust in a believer's heart, but I have seen that other sins also have their foothold firmly planted within me; and I have a great many more battles to wage ahead (though I don't plan to write a book on each). If nothing else (and frankly, little else matters), I have seen God's grace displayed more deliberately this year than in any other, in that I have seen a constant stream of my own sin with which he deals with mercy and patience and corrective discipline; and I adore him all the more for it. Please don't mistake my self-abasing as false modesty; I really believe that were it not for the grace of God in my life, I would be something of a monster--perhaps not a criminal nor an outright villain but certainly a wholly selfish, terribly uncaring, deeply hate-filled narcissistic coward, harboring dark and unseemly thoughts while being too timid to carry them to fruition. Thank the Lord for his intervention in my life, for without it, I do not know what kind of man I would not only be today but be on the road to becoming. I need Christ daily, desperately; and I am so grateful for his miraculous regeneration of my soul despite its inclinations toward evil and temerity.

So, that was not short.

Sorry, as I said previously, this has been a milestone year. I want to thank everyone who has been on this journey with me since I launched the blog in August, and I want to encourage your continued feedback through the comments section or direct e-mail, tweet, or facebook message to me. While I may not respond to every reaction I receive, I read each one; and I value your sharing with me.

I hope that 2012 has been as blessed for you as it has for me, and I pray that your 2013 will find you drawn closer to the Lord and, as a result, drawn closer to others. Be full of love, kind words, loving gestures, and bold honesty throughout your days and rest in the peace and knowledge, that God, who is perfect, has all things within his powerful but tender care.

Once again, thank you for reading. Next week I hope to touch on my hopes and goals for 2013.

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