My Journey as a Writer
"The Spirit of truth will testify to me, says the Lord, and you also will testify."
- John 15:26b, 27a -
- John 15:26b, 27a -
Three Days of Heat: When the Going Gets Tough, How the Crucified Christ Gets the Writer in Me Going
"Thank You for the clouds," I told my Lord the other day. The sun would have toasted me the way it did the day before that; for despite my cap and sunscreen, I got sunburnt.
Yesterday, the 100-degree Fahrenheit (more like Freakingheat) weather hit me. At first, I thought I could offer the heat for the poor souls in purgatory but decided to run on the treadmill instead. Prudence dissuaded me from sun exposure and the risk of fainting in the middle of the trail.
Today, I woke up early, to avoid running under desert conditions.
I ate a toast for my carb fix and a small amount of black coffee. Anything more within 2 hours would be bladder disaster.
The right piece of my wireless earphone refused to stay put and I had to use a bigger right bud. So much ceremony just for a run, I thought. Had I donned my running shoes and headed out without all these gadgets, I would have gone at 7:30 am and not at 8 o'clock.
But after 15 minutes on the trail, I delighted in the music; the random mix from the Don't You Worry Radio station in Pandora beckoned me to move and keep on going.
Lately, God's messages had preventive themes: protecting me from heat, shielding me from harsh criticisms, pulling me out of situations where I am most vulnerable and fragile and prone to fall, and delaying my success, so I don't get drunk and go tipsy from it.
"But just because He protected you from all these, that doesn’t mean He'll roll the red carpet for you," my angel blurted.
I winced and remembered the email query I had submitted to an agent. My countdown had started--and from the sound of my angel—I guess, to another rejection?
"You knew that God's favored ones did not live a life of pleasure, ease, and luxury."
Yes, I knew. David had to do the lowly task of being a shepherd in a brood of eight. Abraham had to endure the endless battle among his sons and descendants to this day. Joseph was sold into slavery. Peter, Paul and most of the apostles and disciples were killed. Even Jesus, the Begotten, the Christ and the Chosen One was tortured, whipped, crowned with thorns, treated like a vile criminal, made to carry a cross fitted for a bigger man (Barabbas), crucified and hanged until He died of asphyxia. His lungs swelled that water and blood came out from His pierced side.
God did not treat His favored ones lightly.
Now, the waiting was killing me…waiting to hear a reply from the literary agent. In the middle of the wait, I seesawed from high to low. One moment I'd be dreaming of a `yes', and the next of a `no'. I swung from one end of my emotional pendulum to another.
I had tried to dispel all my doubts with prayer and reading, but I'd often succumb to my fears and insecurities. Even with networking and a supportive community, I heard the voices within me the loudest, and they fought and disagreed about my destiny as a writer: these three voices, the evil, the good and my own voice (which tends to shift based on my spiritual predicament).
And I thought, what a beggar I was. Even in my writing, I was like that woman in the Gospel who would be grateful for the crumbs that would fall from the table, the morsel meant for the dogs. Something, anything that would encourage me to continue with this endeavor would do.
Like this pilgrim in the desert, I'd settle for a drop of water because I had been drinking from the sweat of my brow to quench my thirst.
I wished I resembled the saints who would be satisfied with knowing that they had done what they needed to do, and need not hear the praise of the Master for they merely did their duties as servants. But I didn't have that spirit of detachment. I'd often find myself peeking at my social media posts and counting the likes or hoping to read a comment only to be disappointed.
Then I'd plunge into self-pity and think, “It's maybe because the words are not from You, my Lord, so it's not touching the hearts of men. You have not inspired it with your Holy Spirit. It's just me and my delusion of being Your inspired writer.”
At one point, I cried to God and said, "I feel like a voice in the wilderness. I don't think anyone is reading all these stuff I'm writing." Then I cringed from my insolence. How full of self-love and attachment from my work those words had sounded! Those words obviously came from a typical middle child with attention-seeking behavior, or what I'd loosely and jokingly self-diagnose as the Middle Child Syndrome, Attention Deficit Disorder subtype.
But kind and tender that You are, my Lord, that's when You sent Your little angels here on earth to encourage me with a simple word, an email from a friend, a comment, a like/love on the blog post. These boosted my dampened spirit. The loving tolerance of my family for allowing me to stay at home and live the writer's life should be more than enough. Even my busy junior high schooler took time to edit some of my posts. Their unending support should have made me very grateful.
Forgive me for lacking this gratitude when my mind is plunged into the darkness of desolation.
As I ran, I thought I had come so far with my running. I ran just because I loved to run. I didn't need anyone to encourage me.
I should feel the same with my writing.
I must simply write because I love to write but the waiting had paralyzed me and for the past days; I had not touched the book. And I felt dead.
I realized novel writing had become like oxygen for me in the same manner that music was for my oldest daughter. She would not and could not stop singing. When we left the house of my sister-in-law, where we stayed temporarily in transition for the move last year, the one thing my brother-in-law noticed when we were gone, was the house was quieter. Even with their small boys running about and shouting inside their house, the voice of my daughter singing every day and every moment of the day had filled the house with another dimension of sound.
Yes, that was my daughter. She can't stop singing. She'd rather be dead than not sing. So when we left, my brother-in-law noticed the difference.
That was passion.
And I felt the same way with novel writing. And I knew it was not just writing per se because this would be my third blog for the week. The Lord had inspired me to cut my blogs shorter (yet I still ended up with more than 1,000 words) into more manageable chunks as the inspirations just kept on pouring whenever I ran. I knew copywriters tend to go on and on and were known for the "But-wait…here's-more" kind of writing, but I felt people nowadays tend to be busier too. With long copies, they skim through most of the materials and inadvertently miss the more important ones.
Anyway, despite these three blogs, I still felt I had not done my writing. It was the novel. The books had been calling me to work on them. With the waiting, I realized I needed to start on something: the second book of the trilogy. This will keep me going, knowing that there was more at stake for me.
"Let love alone push you for it was love that pushed me to the Cross."
The voice startled me. It's my Lord!
"Let your righteousness surpass that of the Pharisees."
This gospel reading the previous day called me to write, not just out of discipline, routine, and habit, the same manner that these Pharisees performed their works out of tradition, ceremony, and even showmanship. That amounted to writing for the sake of getting likes and shares in FB and driving traffic to my website.
"Go beyond the practice. Live the spirit of what of you do, the spirit of love," the priest had said. I must have love. The priest said these Pharisees had become so picky with all their rituals in their rigid interpretation of the law that it had almost become impossible to perform all of it. It had become a severe burden too heavy to carry. The Catholic Church would suffer the same criticism. And time and again, You would remind us, Lord of the very essence of why we do the things that we do.
You did not want to take out all these customs and traditions for these are what binds us to our Apostolic heritage. You have come not to abolish the law, but to fulfill. The sacrificial lamb had become You. The blood offered for the atonement of sins had become Your blood. Truly, as You have said, "Until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place." And You have fulfilled the Messianic promises and prophecies. We are physical beings and need to hold onto something tangible. And Your Incarnation is the very essence of Your physical presence. You who used to be intangible and out of reach came down from heaven and lived among us so we may touch You and hold You.
And should You deprive us of Your Physical Presence when You've promised that You shall be with us until the end of time? No, You did not. You continue to be physically present among us.
And this is what we are celebrating tomorrow, Corpus Christi Sunday: the Feast of the Body of Christ. Your body remains with us. Now in an even humbler form, in the form of the bread.
And what is this bread, my Lord?
On the night that You were betrayed, You took this bread, gave thanks to the Father and told Your disciples, "Take this, all of You and eat of it. For this is my body which will be given up for You. Do this in remembrance of Me." And You've done the same with the wine. And it shall become Your blood, the blood of the New and Everlasting Covenant so that sins may be forgiven. And again, You wanted us to do it in remembrance of You.
You've instituted the Sacrament of the Eucharist on the night of Your betrayal and the eve of Your Passion and Death. At this point, Your disciples have not known and come to a full appreciation of this most blessed mystery of the Holy Eucharist.
But when You resurrected and made Your presence known in the breaking of the bread, Your disciples remembered this night and realized why their hearts were burning with Your presence.
It is You, broken and eaten by Your people so we can have that Physical Intimacy which You so longed to have with us.
But what had become of my heart, my Lord? Why does it not constantly burn when I look at the bread. Why does it wax and wane in its fervor and belief, sometimes cold, tepid and lukewarm and at other times full of love and desire for You? It's as though a veil is before my eyes, sometimes lifted and at other times covered my face.
The priest in the Miracle of Lanciano, who had raised the bread, had the same cold and tepid heart and doubted Your existence in the Eucharist, my Lord. But what did You do? You proved Your Presence once and for all and erased all his doubts. And to this day, these species of Your real presence still exists-- the bread that had turned into flesh, and not just any flesh but the flesh of Your heart, the very muscles of your Sacred Heart! No wonder many loved and devote themselves to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. We eat the flesh of Your Heart so our hearts will transform and burn with the same love as Yours. And Your blood, type AB, was just as fresh as it was before. Science had proven that these are real flesh and real blood without traces of preservatives.
Extract and peel the cataracts and scales off my eyes as You've done to Tobit, and to Paul for I am still blind. Let me see You, my Lord, in the Most Holy Eucharist and the Blessed Sacrament. Let my heart burn for Your heart constantly. Let me eat and drink You with a fervor and faith that can move mountains and change this cold and tepid heart so it may burn with love for You.
"Saul became blind because of the fierce bright light from heaven," my angel said.
I gasped at what my angel said. Saul was blinded by the light because God is like the sun that our eyes cannot behold. He was too bright but hidden in the most Blessed Host, I could stare at Him in loving adoration for hours without going blind!
I remembered that one day while driving, I noticed the sun hiding behind the thick clouds and I stared at it; but the light did not hurt my eyes. It glowed like a round host of the Blessed Sacrament. I realized at that moment how much You loved us! You keep on stooping down to our level so we could reach You, stare at You and even consume You.
Humility. This is something I need to learn more in this steep climb toward publication.
As though to show me the meaning of this, I approached an uphill terrain in my run. I took a shorter and lower stride (where my feet barely lifted from the ground) and clipped my hands to my side. I discovered this stance made the climb easier.
"When the going gets tough, remain grounded in Christ. Humility and obedience will make it easier for you to swallow words of criticism and turn it into points for improvement," my angel said. "Fix your eyes on the Crucified Christ as you struggle with your writing. Each rejection is akin to the nails on your hands and feet, the scourging on your tired back. Each turn-downs would be like the crown of thorns and the lance on your side."
I winced from the image—me in the place of my Crucified Lord?
"Don't think you can avoid the Cross. You must embrace it. Unless you die with Him, you will not rise with Him. Patience, persistence, and passion—these three will lead you to success."
I sighed and prayed for more detachment. I prayed that love alone would suffice to move me to write, not the praises of men because I also wither from false praises or empty encouragements. I'd rather have none and be grounded in the work of the Lord.
I will do what it takes to get His work published. I will train like a soldier so that I can worthily deliver His message in the service of my King.
The song, Don't You Worry, Child played, as if on cue. And I almost cried in the middle of the street. Trust God to send His tender whispers when I just braced and prepared myself for the whiplash. God would be like that. Now I wanted to bawl like His little child.
I finished my run on high spirits.
Thank You, Lord for the endogenous endorphins; just what I needed today.
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