What Writer’s Block Tells us About the Kingdom of God
Since I was old enough to form letters, I have been writing. I drew pictures and colored, too, and I even plunked away at a piano every now and again, but mostly I wrote. I wrote pages and pages of stories about anything I wanted, and it was glorious.
And then I discovered an enemy that haunts me to this very day. It takes different shapes, but it always wreaks havoc on my best-laid plans.
“Writer’s Block” is the polite term for the crippling phenomenon of not being able to write. It is not necessarily the feeling of not wanting to write, but instead the inability to write a single word. It’s like being flat on your back in the hospital with two broken legs. Whether you want to get up and run a marathon isn’t the point. The point is that you can’t.
I don’t know why Writer’s Block happens (I'm sure stress, fatigue, and burnout play a role), but it is a deeply disheartening experience. I tend to see my writing as my writing, and to some extent, it is. I am forming words, stringing sentences, and building paragraphs. My word choice is my own, and I can say whatever I wish. Freedom of expression is one of the most wonderful things about words, and it’s a powerful draw for those who long for order.
But Writer’s Block reminds me of the truth.
I am not in control.
I spend a lot of time thinking about trying to let go of the need to control. I’d say I spend a lot of time letting go of control—or trying to—but I don’t. I sit around and give myself pep talks about not being so controlling, and then I realize that controlling my need to control is still, uh, controlling. I’d like to be positive and say I’m a Type-A person, but those who know me best will tell you that I’m an insufferable perfectionist. I want everything just so, and sometimes I can trick myself into thinking I’ve done a pretty decent job.
Writer’s Block, however, entertains no such fantasies. It goes straight for my ego’s jugular and pounds home the fact that I’m not good enough.
I’m not a good enough blogger, writer, or novelist. Writing is actually a dreadfully painful undertaking for a perfectionist because you have very little control over anything. Blog posts became far too personal for your comfort; books weigh on your soul for months or years at a time before they are birthed, screaming and bloodied, into the world of critics; and characters in novels will not behave the way you want them to.
There’s really no control to be found anywhere.
Writer’s Block frustrates my idealism. I want to find just the right words to say in just the right way. I want to make sure I'm saying the exact right thing, that word fitly spoken, in the clearest and most beautiful way possible. I’ve lost count of the nights I have lain awake wondering, "What if I got it wrong? What if I've said too much or not enough?"
Writer's Block, like the law as a mirror, shows me the need for a Savior. I've hurt someone by my words again. I've wounded someone by not speaking up again. No matter how hard I try, no matter how many hours I spend writing, rewriting, and editing, I can't be perfect. When I focus on myself – as a writer, in my other vocations, or simply as a human being – I will always be found wanting.
But the goal of Christian living isn't perfection apart from, in addition to, or so I can deserve Christ. When the words don't come, I am pointed back to the Word who came. The perfect Word of God took on human flesh not to make me a perfect writer but so that He could live, die, and rise again so that I could spend eternity with Him. He dealt with the effects of sin not by showing us the way to overcome death, but by overcoming it Himself.
Writer’s Block can, ironically, give us insight into our self-insufficiency. But there’s also a lot that Writer’s Block can’t tell us about the kingdom of God.
It can’t tell me that my worth is not defined by who I think I am or who I try to be. It can’t tell me that not only are my sins inconvenient roadblocks; they are deadly death sentences. It can’t tell me that I have a Savior who chose to die for me because He saw me when I was dead in sin and decided that He didn’t want to spend eternity without me. The worst Writer’s Block in the world can’t hold a candle to what it would be like to spend eternity apart from the Word.
My words—or lack thereof—can’t tell me that I’m a sinner saved by grace alone.
But God’s Word does.
In the Scriptures, we see both the depth of our sin and the breadth of the Triune God’s love for us. When we deserved not only silence but condemnation from God, Christ endured the reality of the punishment for sin and the absolute silence of God the Father as He hung on Calvary—for you, for me. Because the Father was silent, because He allowed His Word to be slain so that we might live, we will never endure the eternal separation we deserve. The stillness of the garden was shattered that first Easter when Christ rose, defying the silence of the tomb and obliterating the man-made stone designed to block His body. The wages of sin have been meted out, and the bondsmen, for the sake of the Son, are free.
Christ Jesus is the Word who is never dependent on how clever, masterful, or learned we are. He is both Author and Word in the story of salvation, both Creator, and Redeemer. "Were the whole realm of nature mine," hymnist Isaac Watts writes, "that were a tribute far too small. Love so amazing, so divine, demands my heart, my life, my all." If I could write with all the eloquence of Tolkien, the clarity of Lewis, and the passion of Sayers, it would never be enough. Thank God that Jesus is the first and the last, the begotten one present at Creation and the eternal one who is Himself the Final Word.