Last week my spiritual director asked me a haunting question, as all spiritual directors should. I was explaining to him my frustrations in writing my new book and how slowly this project is moving. I confessed I was over-researching: I've been reading 15-20 books for every single chapter and I am bogged down in hundreds of pages of notes that I don't even end up using. His question came out of nowhere:
Who do you write for?
[Pause. Crinkle my mouth. Look thoughtfully up and to the right like I have any idea how to answer this question, like I consider it all the time. Cough to stall for time. Oooh, that dog has a poofy tail!]
Uhhhhh. The Sunday school answer is "for the Lord." But he already knows everything I write about. I write for my millions of adoring fans? No, that's not it. For my parents? Nah, I'm not 12. For my wife? Maybe.
I write for me. There it is. If I get under all the sanctimonious answers, all the people I'm "supposed" to write for, I discover that I write for me. And more specifically, for this current project I am working on, for 20-year-old me. That sarcastic guy who lived in a college dorm and put White Town's "Your Woman" on repeat and skipped class to play NHL '96 on my his friend's Sega all the time. That guy didn't know jack about himself. But you know what? That dude loved Jesus. And he loved scripture. Just about every time he opened the Bible he had a stirring encounter with the Lord. And he had a plan for his life, and passion for what he was going to do, and his eye on a cute brunette who would one day be Mrs. McHugh. And he digs that that last sentence rhymed.
For the last 8 years I have again lived in the same town that I went to college in, Claremont, California. There is reason to believe that this extended trip down memory lane is drawing to a close. But I have been trying to figure out why I have lived here for so long. The job I took in Claremont ended 6 years ago, but I've stayed, even when I've had to drive 45 minutes every day to work. I suspect now that I am still here because there were unresolved issues from college. I realize that I have rejected much of who I was when I was 20. I lacked self-awareness, I lived in black and white, I was cynical, I was closed off. But maybe that guy wasn't so bad, and maybe, just maybe, as my spiritual director speculated, I need some of the passion and courage and gifts that he had in order to thrive in my next phase of life.
I think 20-year-old Adam needs to know that, it's possible, even after 15 years of wading through theology and scholarship and philosophy, to have a vibrant relationship with Jesus. All the dissection and deconstruction and critique does not change the fact that God breathes the words that give life. I think 20-year-old Adam needs to know that on the other side of disappointment and disillusionment comes new hope for relationships and exhilaration for life. 20-year-old-Adam needs to know that the initial feelings of romantic love will fade but true covenantal, sacrificial, I-will-never-leave-your-side love is oh so much better. He needs to know that God's call does not cease when you're an idealistic college student, but that The Call will be renewed and redirected and refreshed throughout all of his life.
That's who I write for.
Who do you write for? Or play music for? Or paint for? Or preach for? Or work for? Or study for?