Almost three weeks ago, I headed to a writing conference. I went with a book proposal packed in my bag and a body packed with so.much.nervousness. I had this memory playing on repeat in my mind; the one from the night before my wedding where I showed up to my rehearsal and retched in the bushes right as my now-husband went to greet me. Jesus, I will be obedient. I will go. I will try to share what You’ve put on my heart. But, please, please, don’t let me throw up on or near anyone. Amen.
The thing about writing conferences, is that it is easy to feel small—really small—when you are surrounded by people with speaking schedules and their names on the jackets of multiple books.
You can walk into that dining hall where agents and editors all host tables and the hum of conversation can feel like a deafening roar of “See me.” “Publish me.” “Here’s my story.” You can feel like shrinking into the corner and letting everyone else do all the talking because, in all the noise, why would anyone need to hear your voice too?
You guys, when I arrived at this conference, I looked at myself and the message I struggled push onto paper, and I compared it to all the amazing writers who surrounded me. Without realizing it, I was telling God, “I’m not good enough. They are all way better. Why would You need to use me when You are already using her and her and her and her…?”
I came back from that first dinner and cried to my mom (Yeah, I brought my mom with me. I told everyone that I brought her to watch my nursling, Sam. It might have been for me too.) I knew I had to walk up and ask for an appointment with each agent and publisher. But I felt so unqualified, like I already knew their answer… and even more than that, like my book proposal and pitch would be a giant waste of their time. I wasn’t just scared of being rejected, I was afraid I was going to be told I was foolish for even trying.
As I shared these fears with my mom, our conversation landed in the parable of the talents.
Some days, I look at myself and see all the cracks I bear—the anxiety, the messy house—my overusage of adverbs and my frequent run-on sentences—I see the way I can barely find time to post a blog, the homemade website with the bathroom selfie picture on my sidebar—I just want to bury the talent and the dreams I have because I don’t think it’s good enough. I don’t think I’m good enough. I think what I have is small.
I wonder if the guy to whom little was given in the parable of the talents did that. If he looked at the larger portions his colleagues got and thought, I didn’t get as much, so I can’t do as much. My colleagues will do great things with theirs anyways. I’ll just keep mine safe and out of the way.
If you read the passage in Matthew 25 and look for the one reason the one-talent man gives for burying what he has, it might feel really familiar:
“And the one also who had received the onetalent came up and said, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow and gathering where you scattered noseed.And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours’.” (v.24-25)
He was afraid of failing. He was afraid of disappointing. He was afraid to risk, because he was afraid to lose.
Here’s the thing though: the servant recognized the greatness of his master. He knew that whatever his master touched multiplied, that the master got a harvest out of nothing.
Maybe we do that. Maybe we hear God pulling us in a direction, calling us even. And then we look over and see how it works, or how unqualified we might be, or how amazing the people already doing that are. We can over-think and scaredy-cat ourselves right out of what God has asked of us.
Maybe we know that God can do much with nothing, but we fail to include our little bit in the equation of God’s abundant grace.
We can quote that grace is God’s unmerited favor, but, man, do we ever live like we need to be more qualified before we can receive it.
Dear sister (or brother), don’t let fear hold you back. Don’t hide the gifts, the passions, the talents in you. Knock off that whole comparison thing.