I’m going to let you in on a secret that all preachers know. It’s pretty well kept, and not much talked about. Here it is:
It’s not really about what we say. Sure, we work hard, we try and shape our words to shape other people’s worlds. But I’d bet that almost every preacher has had a time where after a sermon someone comes up to them and tells them about something they heard them say that dramatically impacted their life, something profound and inspiring.
And they never said it.
I’ve had this happen more times than I can count. Someone repeats something they heard me say that sounds like something way too smart and insightful for me to have thought of. But they heard it anyway…even though I certainly didn’t say it.
So one of my good friends recommended a book to me last year. It’s Writing to Change the World, by Mary Pipher, and I’m just recently getting around to reading it. It’s a great read that makes me want to write more for the very reason Pipher’s title implies. Writing can change things, because writing can change the way people think. If you ever doubt that think about the books that have charted the course of human history. From Paul’s Galatians to Hitler’s Mein Kampf people have been deeply influenced by words on paper.
And while I don’t consider myself in the same league as these guys (especially Hitler, I definitely am not with him), I have recently gotten to see a glimpse of how this works.
There’s a great little family that goes to our church named the Cheatham’s. They already have a few kids, and not too long ago Derek (the dad) got on this blog and told me about a post they had written about some new developments in their lives. They had recently decided to adopt a child from Ethiopia, but what’s interesting to me is how they went about making that decision.
There were many steps that were involved in this process.But one of them was this blog I wrote back in December. Here is a portion from the actual post the Cheatham’s wrote:
Derek sent me an email while I was flying a trip in December. We were just trying to make sense of all the God nudges… and we were trying to work them out and relay them to each other. So this is what his email says…. He was talking about reading Jonathan Storment’s Blog.
Derek: I quickly skim through it and laugh a few times at his witty jokes. A great story about how God redeems the people of Israel by raising up Joshua even though the people didn’t answer his calling 40 years earlier to go to Canaan. You remember the story right? Nothing really jumps out until this:
JS Post :
But God knows exactly what He’s doing. Because the name Jesus means Joshua. It’s about a time in Israel’s history where all hope was lost. And God interjects a new and better story.
The name Jesus means that God saves. But in this context it doesn’t just mean that God saves us from our sins. It also means God saves us from wasting our lives and our passions on things that don’t really matter. God saves us from living out a story that is too small. Christmas is the time of year that God reminds us of what kind of story He made us for. And that is an (Advent)ure.
I’d like to encourage you go to their website and read the whole story, because by no means was I a main character in this story, it was filled with a lot of people and events that God used to shape their decision. And while I know this may sound a bit cliche, I want to say something… When I wrote this post I had no idea that God was doing something much bigger than just a blog. I thought that I just had a cool thought I wanted to write down before I forgot.
A year and a half ago I made a decision to start blogging regularly. I love words and talking about what I see as God’s activity in the world, and I thought that it would be a good discipline for me to have. But looking back on it I see something deeper going on there. I think God wanted me to write in large part for stories like this. I’m incredibly grateful to have been a small part of it, but that’s one thing I know for certain, my part was really, really small.
Because I’ve preached plenty of sermons where I talked about adopting babies. I know that at any given time in the U.S. there are almost 200,000 children just hoping for a family to give them a good home. I know that pure and undefiled religion has got everything to do with how we care for the least of these. But I never mentioned that in that post. In fact, that post was really about Christmas and what Jesus’ name meant. But for them it was about adopting a baby from Ethiopia.
And here’s why.
Because the one thing that every preacher knows, I’m finding is also true in writing. You aren’t doing it alone. God creates along side of us. We speak one thing, and God’s spirit translates another. We preach on tithing and they hear about why they should treat their spouse more kindly. We preach on the Good Samaritan, and they hear about needing to take a Sabbath. We write about Christmas and they hear God tell them to adopt a baby.
James Baldwin once said, “You write in order to change the world, knowing perfectly well that you probably can’t, but also knowing that literature is indispensable to the world….The world changes according to the way people see it, and if you alter, even by a millimeter, the way….people look at reality, then you can change it.”
We write to change the world. Only to discover that we aren’t writing alone.