Maybe You Can’t Handle the Truth

“I’ve read the story you sent me. It’s not good. Try another form of writing.” A literary agent sent that comment in response to my first attempt at fiction.

“You don’t even know what you’re trying to say, Lori. Until you do, you shouldn’t try to get someone to publish you.” Words from one of the first editors I pitched

“No. No. That was not good writing. I’m disappointed. I expected more from you.” A writing workshop leader reacting as I read my attempt at his assignment.

I have framed and hung these words on the walls of a special room in my mind where I keep those things for which I am particularly grateful. It’s true. I recall each of these comments with a heart full of thanks for the speakers.

That isn’t how I felt the first time I heard the words. My initial reaction to each was disappointment, embarrassment, and indignation. It would have been easy to build a special room in my mind just for these words and others like them. A small, dark room in which to keep vials of bitterness and black velvet paintings of heartache and dashed hopes. A cedar-lined alcove bereft of sunlight where the only music is “Say Something – I’m Giving Up On You” on a constant loop.

Yes, it was tempting to enshrine these words in my soul’s mausoleum, mentally eulogizing my attempts to write.

Instead, sitting alone letting the sentences run like news ticker beneath my regularly scheduled program, I invited Jesus to review them with me. I kn0w each time I hear words I don’t want to hear, I have a choice to make. Jesus whispered in my ear the same words He asked the crowds in Matthew 11 when his cousin John languished in prison for calling out the king on his affair with his brother’s wife: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see?”

John the Baptist told the truth. His truth telling landed him in prison and eventually, got him beheaded. So Jesus asks the crowd who had flocked to listen to John, “What did you go out into the wilderness to see?”

The essence of Jesus’ challenge to the crowd is this – what did you expect to hear from a prophet, someone chosen to deliver truth from God? Were you seeking someone who would sway his message to the prevailing wind? Or were you hoping to receive fine eloquence to seduce and entertain your ear? If, instead, you went out to hear a prophet, why then, do you reject the truth he tells or complain when it challenges your comfort?

When faced with hard words about my writing, Jesus asked me, “What did you go out into the wilderness to see?” Was I willing to live with the discomfort of frustrating truth and let it spur me on to greater excellence or would I set about to erect the dark room where self-pity could flourish like fungus beneath mounds of rotting leaves?

Making the correct choice has made all the difference in my life.

That literary agent is now my dearest mentor, friend, and before retiring, educated me on all things important in God’s economy. That publisher respects my work and encourages me to submit proposals. That workshop leader is a treasured guide and friend. They told me the truth and by accepting it (instead of locking them away out of sight screaming “Off with their heads!”), my writing improved and so did my character.

How do you respond to the truth you entered the wilderness to seek?

When you read God’s word, listen to sermons, receive loving correction from a counselor or friend – do you lean toward banishment? Do you decapitate the truth to facilitate your self-delusions and maintain your comfort? Or do you kiss truth on the lips so you can awaken from your cursed sleep to pursue a deeper relationship with the One who created you?

People who tell us the truth deliver gifts God will use to spur us on to greater adventures if we will receive them with grace. To reject the truth is to lock His work in our lives away in a cell.

John was freer in prison than the king was on his throne. I was more blessed by hard truth than I would have been by false praise.

What did you go out into the wilderness to see, loved ones? And what will you do when that wild and wooly truth disturbs your comfort in the universe? The right choice will make all the difference.

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    The Conversation

  1. Nico van der Merwe says:

    Brilliant! Let me embrace people who tell me the truth and cherish them as gifts from God, to spur me on to greater adventures with Him.

  2. Pam Halter says:

    I totally hear what you’re saying, Lori! I’ve experienced similar words about my writing and God provided me with a wonderful mentor who has helped me not only be a better writer, she also gave me the encouragement and support I needed to not give up.

    I try to do the same with my editing clients. Unfortunately, self-publishing is so easy these days, if an author doesn’t care for my advice, they don’t want to do the hard work of revision, or if they don’t want to wait on a traditional publishing house, they just publish (or as my friend says PRINT) what they want and then tell everyone they’re a published author. But they haven’t been through the process! They don’t understand if you haven’t, at least, attended a conference or workshop and learned a little about the craft, they really aren’t “published”. They’re only printed.

    I’m thankful when beloved friends tell me hard truths. If they didn’t, I would keep on doing the same stupid things. UGH.

  3. Philip Disney says:

    You CAN handle the truth! His name is Jesus. Very sharp double edged objects (i.e. scripture) are to be handled with care and skill. It takes time. Blessings.

  4. Andy Hollifield says:

    It was great to meet you at the BRMCWC this week. Thanks for the encouragement as well as the instruction. Your genuineness shines through in your classes as well as just talking to you. I am trying to be like a sponge and soak up all I can about writing. I came away far more encouraged than I was last year and that is saying a lot. By the way, your use of metaphors in your writing is so good that it not only enhances the story, it also draws attention to your use of them. Another great lesson. Thanks for all of your help and encouragement.

  5. Suzanne Montgomery says:

    Yes, truth often is difficult to hear. However, if it’s offered in love with the intent to move me in a productive direction, then I’m able to absorb and use it wisely. It’s not easy to be a grace-filled truth teller.
    Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom with us this last week at BRMCRC. Looking forward to gleaning more from your blog posts and hope to see you next year at the conference.