A Divided Loyalty and the Stinging Truth

{The Conundrums of Christian Writing and Blogging: A Series}

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Two weeks ago I watched as the endorsements deadline for my first book came and went. I watched the deadline pass, knowing seven authors hadn’t responded.

Endorsements are the pithy accolades that appear in the opening pages and on the front and back covers of a book. Two months ago I learned from my publisher that it’s the author’s responsibility to ask other writers if they might be willing to take a look at the book and write an endorsement. The emails I dutifully typed to more than a dozen authors were among the most awkward I have ever written, because when it comes right down to it, asking for an endorsement for your book is asking for praise, and asking for praise places you in a position of vulnerability and weakness. Not my favorite place.

I waited. And I cried tears of relief and joy as I read some of the early endorsements that came in. I felt a little like Sally Field at the Oscars. People like my book, they like it, they really like it!

Until, that is, the endorsements stopped coming, and the deadline passed.

They’re busy, I told myself. They have their own deadlines, their own jobs, their own families to feed and socks to match and dry cleaning to retrieve. It’s not all about you.

Rationally, intellectually, I knew this was true. But emotionally I tumbled fast, head over heels down the slippery slope in a blur of self-pity and sorrow.

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I had always assumed that once I passed a “certain point” – landed an agent or sold a book or achieved a certain number of readers or blog subscribers – I would miraculously be able to let it all go. I assumed the insecurities would diminish, comparisons would fade away, envy would subside. I assumed I would reach a point of satisfaction, of enough.

But that hasn’t been the case for me. Because there is always the next thing.

The week the deadline passed and the endorsements didn’t come, I read the Book of James from start to finish every morning for seven days straight. The following week, when the endorsements still didn’t come, I read the Book of James from start to finish every morning for seven days straight.

“Don’t you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? …Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world.”(James 4:4, 4:8)

I needed to read these words again and again, to hammer them into my mind and heart. I needed to awaken every morning and read these same words because I knew I was losing the battle, succumbing to temptation, letting my desire for worldly achievement win. And I knew I couldn’t save myself.

Friends, hear this: nothing will cease the cycle of not enough — not your next achievement or your next success; not the fanciest accolade or the highest praise. Nothing will haul you out of the pit of self-pity, not even the one-pound bar of dark chocolate your husband brings home from Trader Joe’s.

Nothing, that is, but God.

The Bible isn’t a quick fix for me. That’s why I have to read it every day. That’s why I have to read the same verses for fourteen days straight. My Bible is not a balm, but a hammer — pounding , repeating, forcing the hard, beautiful truth deep into my mind and heart one verse, one word, one syllable at a time.

I received one more eleventh-hour endorsement for the book on the morning it was scheduled to go to press. The remaining endorsements never came. And I won’t tell you it didn’t hurt; I won’t tell you it wasn’t a crushing blow. But I will tell you this: I came closer to God in those weeks of waiting. His truth was hard; it stung. But as I came closer to God, he pulled me closer to him. And then he shored me up and gently pushed me back out again, armed with new courage and fresh strength.      

A Massachusetts native, Michelle DeRusha moved to Nebraska in 2001, where she discovered the Great Plains, grasshoppers the size of Cornish hens … and God. Michelle writes about finding and keeping faith in the everyday at michellederusha.com, as well as for the Lincoln Journal Star, Prodigal Magazine and The High Calling. She’s mom to two bug-loving boys, Noah and Rowan, and is married to Brad, an English professor who reads Moby Dick for fun. Her first book, Spiritual Misfit: A Memoir of Uneasy Faith, will be published in April 2014. She hangs out here on facebook and twitter.

Hey–isn’t Michelle awesome? I *so* love her honesty, y’all. Do you struggle with this as a writer? Or just in life in general? Let’s discuss this in the comments! 

**This is a series–I hope you’ll be back next week, for more delving into this. At the end of the series, Kelli Woodford and I are hosting a link-up here for you to share your own stories of what makes Christian writing and blogging hard for you. Kelli and I will choose one *amazing* story from the link-up to feature on both of our blogs sometime around the end of February (nailed-down dates to come). So, what are the issues we face and deal with as writers? Please keep this theme in mind, and think of how you’d like to share your own story or journey of blogging/writing with us! **{Requirements for link-up: Please no maligning/no mention in a negative manner of other blogs/authors/writers/brothers & sisters in Christ. Hurt does happen in community, and if we write about that, one option is to change the name/situation/dates, so that the people involved remain anonymous and are protected. “Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.” Proverbs 17:9}


28 thoughts on “A Divided Loyalty and the Stinging Truth”

  1. Yay! Thanks for hosting me today, Nacole. I love this series – it's good to talk about the hard stuff that goes alone with writing, and Christian writing specifically. i really struggle with envy and comparison, and it helps to be honest about that within an empathetic community, so thank you for providing that here! xxoo

  2. Michelle, I'm sorry for this disappointment (and all of them) but glad for your wrestling and drawing ever nearer to God. He loves you, and I know many people love you and are true friends to you, and I'm sure your book is amazing. A wise someone said: “If it's meant for you, it will not pass you by,” and sometimes I cling to that even as I make hard choices. May God continue to bless and just really illuminate your path. So much love to you.

  3. Michelle, I have struggled with that, too, and really, don't we all when we're honest? As I've told you several times already, friend, it was your unassuming, honest, humble, spunky self that drew me in when I met you, and I continue to only grow in admiration for the “earthy” person you are. If you have struggled with envy and comparison, Michelle, you have done so graciously, my friend. *Thank you* for bringing your stark truth to this series. We need it.

  4. I so needed to hear this truth, “My Bible is not a balm, but a hammer — pounding ,
    repeating, forcing the hard, beautiful truth deep into my mind and heart one
    verse, one word, one syllable at a time.” I need to apply the hammer more often in my life. Thanks for sharing this honest look at your struggles with “not enough.” I am very encouraged by your words! Looking forward to your book!

  5. If I needed to hear anything today, it was this: “

    Friends, hear this: nothing will cease the cycle of not
    enough — not your next achievement or your next success; not the fanciest
    accolade or the highest praise. Nothing will haul you out of the pit of
    self-pity, not even the one-pound bar of dark chocolate your husband brings
    home from Trader Joe’s.

    that is, but God.”

    Michelle, awesome post…just what I needed. Thank you.

  6. I'm crushed that you didn't ask me for an endorsement… 😉
    No, seriously, another excellent post about the raw realities of life in this fallen world!
    I love your transparency, Michelle…and I identify readily with your struggles.
    Keep doing what your doing!

  7. Thank you so much for your honesty, Michelle. It's easy to think once I get to a certain point then I have arrived. But it's like you say, there is no place where we are whole and fulfilled apart from Christ's fullness. We are as good as we'll ever be in Him, perfect and blameless. I love that you soaked in James and let it get down into your soul. I'm finding this whole process of writing is so much about letting go and constantly fighting insecurity and pride and envy and all the rest. Who knew that writing would test a soul this way? And Nacole, love you girl and love this series. Beautiful.

  8. It is unwise to ever think we have “arrived,” though I am guilty as charged. God always has more for us to learn and desires us to grow fully into Him. Sounds like He is working marvelously in your life!
    Blessings, Michelle, and thank you for this beautiful post!

  9. You know I'm just a few steps behind you in this Michelle, learning from your vulnerable heart in preparation for the endorsements that won't make it to my mailbox. And I'm pretty certain, that you got the right ones because people will be changed, not by the endorsements but by the illustration of your character written in the pages of your book. I love you, but I think you already know that. Your honesty does some good work in all of us.

  10. Oh. Thankyou. I hate to confess this but all too often it does feel as if sometimes I've stepped into a party uninvited. Even when folks are polite and invite you to the table– they don't like it if you talk too much. And the building, building, building …. of what? Oh. I'm convicted so often by these words and the ugly truth of my ugly heart. Thankyou for your honesty. We need more earnestness and honesty … not talk. Bless you.

  11. Yes, Joy, “tiny minnows in a sea of literature” – I love that description, and it is so very accurate sometimes, isn't it? Sometimes when I walk into a bookstore, or into the blogosphere, I think, “What can I possibly add that hasn't already been said?” But then, I remember the Truth, which is that God has given each of us our very own unique story to tell. So press on, Warrior Writer, Story Teller and Child of God!

  12. That image is so right-on, Lori: “our hearts wandering into places they were never meant to go.” So true. Sometimes we need the hammer, yes?

    Thank you for your kind words here today – it always helps to know I'm not alone on the journey.

  13. I am first in line to endorse your book, dear friend (if you want it, that is!). But seriously, it IS good to learn from our fellow travelers, isn't it? And you continuously offer me such wise words and so much hope and encouragement – you are truly a blessing to me, Shelly.

  14. I wanted to comment earlier, and was on my phone, so I sent you a long rambling vulnerable email, Michelle. But this post just SPOKE to me in so many ways. I am just so thankful for you, for your words, and for your real. Love you, lady. You are such a ray of light.

  15. oh, I can identify with this post Michelle. It is like when ONE reader unsubscribes and you get that pit in your stomach all evening. Have you watched writer Elizabeth Gilbert on You tube talk about the elusive genius and how she was affected after writing her best seller. Showed me even the superstars have doubts. good post!

  16. Thank you, Michelle for sharing your heart so honestly. “Nothing, that is, but God.” Those two words… but God… have become two of my favorite words.

  17. Nacole – how fun to find Michelle here and to receive more of her encouragement. Michelle – I was especially encouraged by your comments to a commenter, where you tell her to keep on “Story Teller – Warrior Writer.” Just today I settled up the reasons why I should write – and the fact that I have a story to tell that is uniquely mine and speaks to God's unfailing love. Even if I am not a polished writer, I am a story teller with a very special story to tell. And tell it I will.

  18. You know, I have received such a gift from sharing this post this week. Such a rough, ugly story – but so much light and grace and love in the comments – an unexpected gift indeed. Thank you, Christie.

  19. I have watched the TedTalk, Jean – it was a good one. I remember thinking how incredibly paralyzed I would be to have to write something after such an overwhelming success. I also remember thinking, Oh to have such a problem! 😉

  20. I got your email, Kris, and was so, so blessed by it – it's still right there in my in-box — waiting for me to respond, which I will do! But let me just say right here, thank YOU. So much love to you…

  21. How fun in many way you DO have that problem now. You ARE a superstar. LOL Congrats again. You write about sending me an ARC for a review. would be glad to do so for you!!

  22. Your bravery is incredible. To share your vulnerability – so openly – leaves me a little breathless. Prayers.

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