Writing for me is rarely automatic. I do not naturally sit down to pour out my thoughts on paper or on computer. I must nearly tie myself down and tether my computer to my lap. Some uncertain time after I begin, however, I fall into an enchanted dance, where the words become music, and my fingers glide across the dance floor of my computer keypad.
This experience reminds me of my years of running: As a runner would attest, my first few paragraphs of writing may be the first couple miles for a long-distance runner. I fight the side-cramps, the screaming of my lungs to stop the insanity of my running endeavor, the mind-traps that repeat over and over that this undertaking was one of the most ridiculous ideas that had ever taken up residence in my brain. But if I was able endure the pain, dodge the self-defeating thoughts, and keep running, around mile three or four, I hit my stride, my pain transforms into an otherworldly out-of-body experience, and I fall into the land that all runners aim for: The runner’s high.
Writing is similar to long-distance running and dancing. Through the beginning of a composition, I stumble and stutter, trying to catch my fluttery, unwilling brain and tie it down to one subject. We dance together with two left feet, and with cold and unadapted muscles, we face-plant on the dance floor. And this is all part of the dance. It is all part of the long-distance run. It is all part of my writing process. The likelihood of using my first few paragraphs of mumbling, disorganized, word-vomit is very low. But that word vomit is vital for my progression into my quality words.
We must warm up our muscles in preparation for strenuous physical activity, and we equally must warm up our writer muscles in preparation for quality writing. How tragic would it be if we were to stop prematurely, before we made it into the writing zone? What if we listened to the urging in our head that told us to stop running, a mere half mile before we reached our runner’s stride?
In many endeavors, I find myself in the severely uncomfortable space of adjustment, when I have not yet adapted to the demand of the call, but feel the promise of empowerment and adaptation if I just persevere a bit longer. Many times, I shy away from the first word, or the first step, out of fear of discomfort. As a result of my unwillingness to step out in discomfort, I miss the joy, fulfillment, and experience of God’s goodness and power in the long-run results of obedience.
I’m not alone in my fear. We live in a culture that loves to avoid discomfort. We desire to embrace short-term benefits rather than long-term rewards. We despise waiting. We just don’t have time. We spend our money, energy, and time pursuing comfort and avoiding pain.
But what if the breakthrough is just on the other side of this discomfort? What if the only way to meaningful growth is through the overwhelming pain of a narrow, dark, uncertain path? What if in fear we are sacrificing our long-term character development for short-term comforts?
Imagine the walk of our Savior to the place of the Skull, where He would be crucified. Imagine the pain of each step: His flesh clinging to the robes in bloody strips, his vision blacking out due to unimaginable pain and excessive loss of blood, the blood dripping from the thorns in his brow burning his already darkened eyes. The word “discomfort” seems like a deeply offensive understatement in light of our Lord’s agony leading up to His great sacrifice. Our Lord’s call involved a higher degree of world changing and suffering than we could ever comprehend. Yet, for the glory set before Him, JESUS ENDURED.
What is God calling us to that requires sacrifice and possibly pain? What calls are we resisting because we worship our own comfort? How can we walk in our Savior’s footsteps if we are unwilling to suffer?
Writing is a small drop in the large body of water of Kingdom-building. But for me it stands as a representation of the journey through discomfort into the heart of God. As we prepare for Lent, I pray that a holy discontent arises within us that we can no longer bear the thought of playing around in our comfort zones any longer. May we catch a vision of the Savior, so that we may follow Christ for the glory set before us.
Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the Author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.