I was pondering why I was feeling discouraged about my relationship with Evangelicalism . . . once again. I think it was multifactorial, however, one key one was my latest rejection by a literally agent for my manuscript Butterflies in the Belfry, Serpents in the Cellar. This will be sixth rejection and was probably my last try. I think the book has come to its demise.
The first five agents appeared secular in their orientation. I had carefully screened them as appearing to be interested in my type of work . . . but apparently they were not.
If you don’t know how this works (and I think most here do) you really can’t get a book published these days unless you have an agent. To get an agent, you have to win them over with a two-paragraph pitch. So, years of hard work and thought come down to about six to eight carefully worded sentences.
The previous rejections came quickly (within a week) and were obviously “form” e-mails . . . but polite. “Thank you so much for considering our agency. We are sorry but we are not accepting manuscripts of your type right now.”
Then I decided to try a self-proclaimed Christian agent. But he wasn’t over the top with a fundamentalist view of the universe. He had actually represented some controversial topics and had been a writer at Christianity Today. But his rejection came late (after a month) and with a twist of cruelty I had not seen before. “There is no way I would want to represent you.” So what the hell does that mean? It really leaves you wondering.
I’ve said before, and I think most writers (dare I call myself one) and artists in general would much rather have someone look carefully at their work and give strong, specific criticism than to have someone scowl and run away by the very mention of it. It leaves us confused and dangling.
Okay, putting that aside, I was thinking about a much broader topic . . . very broad . . . and that is the proverbial meaning to life.
I’ve said before that I think you can boil down all human behavior to two general areas. First of course are biological needs. Those are clear but can be complicated. I say complicated because in history I’m sure wars have started over simple biological needs . . . often a King in one country wanting to have sex with someone . . . whom he can only win via war. But of course food (or lack of) can drive a nation to war or even water. That was just one small part of the French Revolution (which I’ve been thinking about recently).
But the other major player is simply our deep desire to have value. That is the prime mover in virtually all that we do. This is why there are city block after city block of lines of people waiting in queue for one chance in a million (literally) of being America’s Idol. Getting on TV is sufficient for some, even if it makes them look like a fool. But this is why we have Facebook and Twitter too. Facebook has been in the news of late (including the cover of the last Time magazine) because of privacy issues so I was thinking about it more than usual.
I was not familiar with Facebook until December 09, when I joined to see photos of my first grand child, Oliver. But immediately I had all these friends tying into my network of people. I hardly go to Facebook except—still—to see photos of my grand son. But I was surprised how so many people are posting, almost on the hour. “I ate a PB and J sandwich and it was so good.”
Now, before I say too much, I will be the first to admit that this very blog is not more than a mouse’s eyebrow removed from that same narcissistic exercise. So, like always, I include myself in my commentary. But I’m still not saying this is a bad thing. While most of what we do is based on that primal desire to have value, this does not mean we should stop doing it. However, we should know why we do these things and we should know that they never accomplish their purpose . . . making us feel of significance.
I’ve mentioned before that more than 90% of the motivation of doing humanitarian work comes from this same place. I’ve been there several times. I’ve seen American doctors being very rude to the nationals that they have come to help and they would put a patient in jeopardy in order to get a better photo for their humanitarian trophies. I have my photographic trophies on my office wall as well. I don’t think I would put a patient in jeopardy to get a good shot . . . at least I hope not. And I was just using that as an example of the extreme to make a point. But with all that said, we still SHOULD do humanitarian work. We still should go to Facebook and Twitter as well if we want . . . or blog.
Besides knowing why we do what we do (and getting away from the Christian concept of “I am doing this out of pure motives”), we should also strive to know that we have tremendous value (that is intrinsic value) because God made us. The Gospel is all about value being added by an act of grace. So we don’t have to be America’s idol, a great humanitarian, great mother, great father or great writer to have value.
But I use the word “strive” because I fail at this all the time. I think us who have the anxiety tendency tend to fail at this the most . . . but I’m not sure.
But posting on Facebook is part of this endless march to find meaning and significance. Someone cares if I ate a PB and J. Someone cares if I have a thought on Christian Monist Vs Dualism. It’s all the same.
I know that I am off on a convoluted path but there is a point. I find myself in a funk, as I talked about yesterday, seemingly distant from the church (small “c”) and I even entertain, at times, of going back in—full throttle—and faking it like everyone else does. It is because I desire this significance and I have a (wrong) feeling that I could get it there.
I think that it was three years ago when I started putting my thoughts down in the Butterflies manuscript. I poured my heart into it for well over a year. It was a labor of love. I had those thoughts inside my head, like a steamship slowly coming into vision out of the midst of a dense fog. As I wrote the words down, the fog seemed to lift.
My wife Denise tells me that I should only write for myself. I think that is why she doesn’t like me writing this blog where I hang my dirty laundry out for the world to see and she doesn’t come here. I think that she may be right. Maybe, if there was a purpose in my writing it is for my own benefit.
But in the same way I thought I would go to the mission field an be this great missionary guy that someone would write books about some day (like Hudson Taylor), I may have had a grandiose idea that I could make an impact somewhere by my writing. And by having such an impact, I would be a bit more valuable.
This is where I cross paths once more with the brilliance of Solomon. When I read his writings—Ecclesiastes being my favorite—I feel that I truly am sitting at the feet of an intellectual giant. He is also a genius who I think is very misunderstood because his writings make us uncomfortable.
“All is vanity, a chasing after the wind. So what is left but to eat, drink and be merry.” How many times have I heard preachers tell us that those words came from an unrepentant Solomon? They will add that later he “shaped-up” met the Lord for real, and then realized that eating, drinking and being merry were wrong and that having a great ministry is of great worth. Not!
I think if Solomon was here he would say, “I tried out for American Idol . . . and I won. I got a platinum record . . . but still I felt of no more value. Then I devoted my life to Christ, became a missionary in China, built a chain of Christian schools across Asia, wrote three hundred best-selling books . . . yet, for nothing. I went to church every morning for fifty years, never missing a day, yet all vain . . . chasing after the wind. I started the largest ministry in the US and was the pride of James Dobson . . . yet it was all worthless. Then, I realized that I was fully valuable in God’s eyes already and these other things didn’t matter. Then I knew that sitting in Starbucks with my son, eating a cinnamon roll, drinking a mocha and being merry of heart in the bright sun . . . is as good as it gets. Know if I could only believe that once and for all.