I’ve published my book and now I feel scared. The sort of scared that springs from the question: ‘What have I done?’ Scared that no one will read it. Scared that, if they do, they won’t like it; scared that people will judge it and find it so wanting that they will tell me, along with anyone in the world who will take the time to listen: ‘Don’t waste a second of your precious time reading the rubbish she’s produced. She’s a delusional narcissist. She can’t create a coherent sentence, let alone a captivating plot with characters who capture your imagination.’
But hang on a minute. This morning I read in Isaiah: ‘Do not be afraid of people’s scorn, nor fear their insults.’ Those words pulled me up short. Not because they encouraged me to brazen out any criticism that may lay in wait for me. Not because I suddenly remembered the old ‘sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me’ default inner defence position of childhood. Those words pulled me up short because I was reminded of where I stand in the universe. If your faith is something you don’t really explore, or if you don’t believe in God, then this next bit may sound like the ubiquitous fairy tale you may believe faith in Him to be. I have tried life from that viewpoint and, though I longed to stay put in that position, I found it impossible. But I digress. Where I believe I stand in the universe is this. I stand in the presence of the God whose fingerprints and DNA run through the whole of creation. I stand in the presence of the God whose heartbeat sustains the fabric of the heavens and earth. I don’t understand much science, try as I have, but what I have grasped makes me gasp in amazement at the complexity, the simplicity, the pure genius of nature. People far more intelligent than me understand how the stars give light to the night skies; what makes the wind blow. How rain falls. Theologians with more wisdom than I can ever hope to amass grapple with the questions of suffering and disease and disasters. I just stand as someone who can be over awed by the wonder of creation, overwhelmed by the sadness and injustice that exists in this beautiful world. And yet, through all the things I know I’ll never understand, things like the untimely death of my father; watching helpless as my mother died from cancer, events that I tried to use as reasons to prove there is no such thing as a God of love, I stand as someone who cannot hide from the touch of God’s love and grace in my life. And believe me, I have tried.
I don’t want anyone to criticise me or my writing. But they will. I want everyone to love what I create. But they won’t. I don’t want anyone to be indifferent. But they may be. But what I want to want more than anything is to become a person who has a universal perspective on my place in my family and my community, a perspective that makes me compassionate, reflecting the love and grace I have experienced in my own life into the lives of those that touch my own. What I should be scared of is falling short of who I should be, not of anyone’s scorn or insults for the books that I write.