August 13, 2019

Depth of Character by Wendy L. Macdonald



Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 
Romans 12:12 NIV

Recently I realized that depth of character as a Christian and a writer can’t be realized without the one thing I strove to avoid.

Before I knew Jesus—joyfulness, patience, and faithfulness were sorely lacking in my life. I flitted from friend to friend and from job to job. This reminds me of a butterfly in a garden. It’s rare for a butterfly to sit still enough for me to capture a clear shot of it with my camera.

Like the butterflies, I was afraid of something. The thing I feared wasn’t the monster I believed it was; fear was the boogie man I needed to boot out of my mind. My submission to fear stunted my emotional growth. 

Once I became a follower of Jesus, I began to submit to the hope I have in Him. I realized fear wasn't supposed to lead me. However, it wasn’t an easy habit to break. Thankfully the Christian life isn’t a walk through the valley of condemnation; it’s a journey of transformation.



For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; 
but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. 
2 Timothy 1:7 KJV

Love leads. It doesn’t wallop us over the head and tell us to smarten up. Love leads with gentleness and respect.

Slowly I stopped avoiding what I feared most: Affliction.

Webster’s definition of affliction: a cause of persistent pain or distress.  
 
Just as there are honeymoon phases in marriage, life, and institutions, there are also seasons of affliction. Love is long-suffering. Love doesn’t leave when poor weather arrives. Love remembers the best about others and stays to see the sun return. 

 As a writer, this also applies to slogging through the messy middle of an article, blog post, or book manuscript. Sometimes we begin a project with loads of hope only to have it unload by the halfway mark.

This is when and where the author’s character matters more than the protagonist’s does. Will we stay on target to complete the good race or will we be sidelined by fear of failure? Even if our story doesn’t make it to print, the process of completing it, editing it, and submitting it for critiques are huge growth hormones for our character development as a person.

Let’s face it, the writer’s life—the Christian life—isn’t easy. Pain and distress are part of the package. They are the sandpaper, the chisel, and the hammer that build a better version of us.

Confession time:

I recently began walking through a season of affliction. There are things that happened that stung, stunned, and stripped me. I couldn’t believe what I witnessed and experienced. But the wonderful thing about this weird journey is
  I allowed the hardness of life to press me in to the softness of His hands.

Bad stuff is transformed in the hands of a good God. 

I’m a better person. A better writer. A stronger person. A stronger writer. My faith, hope, and joy grew. My love for the Lord grew deeper and wider too as suffering shaped my character.
 
I’m also a humbler person for the suffering because sometimes I didn’t handle the stress well and ended up saying or doing things that compounded the problem. Sometimes, I forgot to breathe deep and count to ten.

As a fiction writer, this helps me understand the story behind why a character may suddenly act out of character. Sometimes good gals do bad things. A flawed character, or a flawed writer, is more relatable. Nothing opens my ears to hear better than finding out the story teller has walked in similar shoes. 

I’m nosy-to-know if your character (and your fiction characters) grow deeper during a season of suffering?

Blessings ~ Wendy Mac

12 comments:

  1. Wendy, I could so relate to your line: "slogging through the messy middle of an article, blog post, or book manuscript. … This is when and where the author’s character matters more than the protagonist’s does. Will we stay on target..."

    I used to get discouraged when I found myself in the messy middle of a piece. I'd think, surely it can't take this long to work and rework a piece to get it to its best, I must be an awful writer, I've already done hours on it. But experience now tells me to recognize when I'm in the 'messy middle' and not get discouraged, impatient or disgusted with myself.

    One thing I have learned from realizing there will always be a messy middle to slog through is to start my articles well in advance of any deadline. For it truly takes time and distance to move a piece from awful to half decent to decent to good to excellent (the very best one can do at that time).

    Thanks, Wendy!

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    1. Thank you, dear Brenda. Your advice to "start...articles well in advance of any deadline" is wise. Writers need to have enough time to set something aside for a few days so that they can read the rough draft with fresh eyes. Fresh eyes are better at spotting what needs to be changed and what is worth keeping.
      This week I watched an artist slog through the messy middle of a painting. It turned out beautiful. I suspect every creative endeavor tends to have a messy middle. Perseverance helps us get through it.
      Thank you for reminding me I'm not alone.
      Blessings ~ Wendy Mac

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  2. Loved the analogy Sis! When you become a Christian, you truly become a New Creation in Christ. Not only are old things passed away, but your perspective becomes new and you start to see Christ and His Holy Spirit in all the workings going on around you. I have been many times accused of "over spiritualizing" things in this life and yet, I can't help it since I truly do see the Hand of God in all things now. It didn't happen overnight, but I am thankful that I CAN "over spiritualize" now!! Great message, Sis! God bless and stay strong! Prayers, always!!

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    1. Thank you, Pastor Roland. When Jesus returns to gather His own, I believe many people will wish they did spiritualize things more. When it's all been said and done, what matters most is our faith in the Son.
      Blessings to you, dear brother ~ Wendy Mac

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  3. "This is when and where the author’s character matters more than the protagonist’s does. " What a profound - but true - statement! I agree wholeheartedly with everything you expressed. and yes, I find my characters grow and are more authentic when they have to go through hard stuff...

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    1. Thank you, dear Tracy. It's not easy subjecting our characters to hard stuff, but both the author and reader learn from the experience. It's the same with real life too; we learn much in the hard places when we lean in to God.
      Blessings ~ Wendy Mac

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  4. Hi Wendy. I relate to your post on a number of levels. I've endured physical pain most of my life since a neck accicent when I was three. Most people can't even tell as I've learned to handle it as the years have gone by. No doctor or therapy has eased the pain, let alone cure it. This reminds me of my early writing. I hid my writing from everyone. Decades went by before I began to share anything I wrote with anyone. With physical pain and writing God has taught me patience and not to give up. Thank you for the reminder of our "journey of transformation."

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    1. Thank you, Alan, for sharing your poignant story about dealing with pain since you were three. Wow, I can't even imagine how hard that must have been to face at such a young age. You're always so kind, joyful, and gracious; I never would have imagined how much suffering you've had to endure. I suspect your situation has helped mold you into a compassionate mentor and friend for people in need of comfort.
      Blessings ~ Wendy Mac

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  5. Thank you, Wendy, for this powerful and personal piece of writing. The way you built your story on the following verse from 2 Timothy has a particular connection for me.

    For God hath not given us the spirit of fear;
    but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
    2 Timothy 1:7 KJV

    Because of my experiencing more than one previous bout of depression, I was fearful, last year, when I got sick My doctor reassured me, however, that the depression I suffered then was more situational than a major. depressive disorder. I appreciated his clarification on the matter. That’s about when I rediscovered the above verse, which addressed my fears about depression and other matters. This verse in Timothy’s letter also reassured me that in Christ I could claim a spirit of power, of love and of a sound mind.

    Yes, Wendy, I too have grown personally and spiritually during tough times. My physical stature remains understated. :-)

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    1. Thank you for sharing your heart, dear Sharon. I recite 2 Timothy 1:7 several times a week. Sometimes I need to recite it several times a day. I'm grateful God fills us with His Holy Spirit. I need Him every hour.
      Blessings ~ Wendy Mac

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  6. Hi Wendy, I've loved reading your blog and how the comments indicated that you impacted your readers. You touched on a number of themes that resonated with your readers: developing yourself and your characters, being encouraged in the "mess of the middle", and discovering much and growing in the hard places of life. I'll add an additional image that meant so much to me: "I allowed the hardness of life to press me in to the softness of His hands." That's one purpose God has to develop our love for Him.

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    1. Thank you, dear Sandi. It was while speaking with a dying friend last year that I came up with these words: Life's hardness presses us in to the softness of His hands.
      My friend cried when I said this and her reaction made me remember to write our conversation in my journal. She's dancing with Jesus now. She asked if she could use those words and I told her she inspired them. She inspired so many people.
      Blessings ~ Wendy Mac

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