[I wrote most of this in May, and finished it . . . in July]
“Tell me something about yourself,” the traveling speaker asked, having gone down the row asking each person the same as they introduced themselves.
I paused. “I like to create things.”
“What sort of things?”
“Paintings, cakes, stories. But I rarely finish my stories.”
“Do you finish your cakes?”
“Yes!” I laughed in response.
“Why do you finish your cakes and not your stories?”
The answer came sooner than is characteristic of this ponderer. “People eat my cakes. They don’t read my stories.”
In that moment, it somehow seemed like an epiphany, whose meaning was not yet clear. Then I forgot about it, until tonight.
Tonight I combed through my computer files, hoping to find a forgotten piece of writing that could be polished to some semblance of beauty. What I found were bits of fiction, journaling and poetry. They were written so long ago that it was if I was reading them for the first time as I had no recollection of them whatsoever. Some were quite dismal, some dramatic, but some surprised me by giving me hope that maybe it would be worthwhile to continue practicing my craft. There was one tale in particular that drew me in and made me feel as if I were suffering from some sort of author’s amnesia. The first page of this story was intriguing, and I waited with bated breath to see where it was going, scrolling down to page two. I yelped in indignation at my former self, for the scene ended abruptly. I had left myself hanging in the midst of an unfinished story whose anticipated plot I couldn’t recall. By not finishing that story when the idea was fresh, I lost an opportunity I can’t get back. As I continued to peruse my files, this scenario repeated itself, sometimes with thoughts being left behind in mid-sentence. The only stories that were finished were the ones that had something in common with my cakes: stories I wrote with the anticipation of sharing them with specific people.
I’ve written this post thus far, and I’m tempted to give it up as I feel there is too much here that I can’t seem to convey, but I couldn’t handle the irony. What have I learned from this experience? I suppose learning something isn’t a requirement, but somehow with me everything turns out to be a lesson, and I took two main things from this. *First, I think I should find more merit in writing just to write for the joy of it, to work through thoughts and feelings with no thought of somehow gaining approval from others. Yet simultaneously, the motivation to excel, follow through and actually finish well is so much stronger when you have the anticipation of sharing it with another. To have someone urging you onward is something we should all have and participate in, regardless of whether it is in reference to making a cake, writing a story, or anything else that is good. God didn’t mean for us to take on life alone, something that I so often find myself attempting to do.
Second, I wonder what “stories” in life I am currently leaving unfinished. What am I not pursuing because I’m too scared, too lazy, or I feel too inadequate? What will I look back on later and see a beautiful beginning, only to watch it vanish into thin air because I gave up? What will I regret later that I could change now, wishing I could talk to my former self into pursuing? Those questions are not easily answered, but are worth pondering. Now, I’m not suggesting that everything started is worth finishing, and we need to be careful in discerning what is. However, I’ve found it to be an uncomfortable truth that the things that are really worthwhile in life and for eternity to come are the things that do not come easily. Forming healthy habits, meaningful relationships, serving others, sharing the gospel and even maturing are beautiful things that only come through a perseverance that throws aside laziness, awkwardness, fears, what-ifs, and a gaze upon one’s self that reveals more weakness than we care to see. Yet if we manage by God’s grace to persevere, to finish in those things He has led us into, we will be left with something ultimately more dear than whatever it was we gave up. So here’s to finishing well with the help of a community and strength from the Lord, whether it be cakes, stories, or things infinitely more important.
*Basically what we have from this point on is a loquacious pep talk directed to myself. These things are so easily forgotten, and I need to be reminded often!