Saturday I awoke early. Too early. 5:15 AM.
When that sort of thing happens, I have a personal practice: Pray. I know it seems silly, and I do not know when it started, but at some point recently, when I awoke in the middle of the night or early in the morning—not due to a need to use the restroom but simply because my body awoke—I began to pray. And I have continued to do so. I pray for the Lord to place on my heart the person(s) or situation(s) for which prayer is needed, and I just roll with whatever hits my mind thereafter. Sometimes family, Sometimes friends. Many times I will simply pray for what strikes me and fall back into slumber. As I said, this is a strange process.
Anyway, back to Saturday. When I awoke, I felt the need to get out of bed, get dressed and not only pray but also spend time in the Word. I am presently trying to memorize Psalm 51—a Psalm of confession—and I decided to review that passage and spend some time in the last few chapters of 1 Corinthians while everyone else slept.
During my reading and prayer, I was convicted about a sin in my life that had creaped upon me, a sin that many of you may have seen but about which I have been obtuse. Frankly, friends, this is embarassing to admit, but I feel it concerns you also, so I am telling you. The sin is that of idolatry, and the idol in question has been Stronghold.
What an odd thing for a writer to say, right? Well, I have to confess that, given my situation, I can see how I’ve dropped the ball and allowed this project that I felt led to write become more important to me than the One who led me to write it. Stronghold has become something of idol to me.
Now, you may be thinking, “C.J., you’re being too hard on yourself. You’re just really focused on the book right now because of the release.” But the truth is that I have begun to look toward Stronghold and its release as something in which I will find my validation and identity, espeically since the move. I have struggled with a number of personal issues regarding self-worth and personhood in the last 9 months, and looking back over the past weeks, I recognize that I have seen Stronghold’s release as the answer to some of these issues, as though its release and (hopeful) success would justify my unemployment, my talent, or my life choices.
At times, I have seen Stronghold not as a tool God can use for his glory but as a vehicle for my own vanity and a tool for personal vindication. I have thought to myself, “Once this book gets released, then it’ll all make sense—the move, our financial situation, our choices, everything.” At other vainglorious times, another sentiment also has crossed my mind: “When God blesses this book, then it will show everyone how good he is.”
But here is the rub of this deep-rooted folly—if I am not showing everyone how good God has been now--even now, in the uncertain, difficult times of testing and faith--then I have already failed to be the witness that he has allowed me to be in the present. And what a failure that is, dear readers. What an astonomical failure.
On top of that, God is so much bigger than this book, and seeing this text as a source of vindication or financial security is absurd for two reasons. First, even if the book does well, it will be God’s doing—his preparing the hearts and minds of readers to engage, enjoy, and empatheize with the text--so his work is still at forefront of everything. Second, the book itself is not the goal; Christ is the goal. His honor, his beauty, and his glory are the goal. If Stronghold becomes a bestseller but Christ looks no more beautiful than he did to readers beforehand, I will have failed.
I do not really know what else to say other than I am sorry for losing my focus—not only to God but to you all, for you have possibly been the receipients of my communicating a grave and destructive outlook toward my own success rather than God’s glory. Inasmuch as I’ve confessed it to God I feel required to confess it to you also, as you have been joining me on this adventure and deserve honesty and integrity. My dear readers, I am sorry.
Thanks for reading today; I know this was an especially odd entry (even for this blog). I hope that my sin has not soiled the prospect of this book’s release in your minds, and I look forward to continuing this journey with you.