Bringing forth a viable book – or any other work that is living, breathing and life-giving – requires waiting and cooperating with God through the whole gestation period, however long he designates it to be.
A friend is working diligently to write her first book. She was chugging along, drafting the manuscript, until she reached a certain section. Then, her forward motion slowed to an agonizing crawl. For several weeks she has prayed, searched, talked with people, listened to them and to God. She’s written a bit more and then repeated all the above, as she struggles to complete the draft of that one section.
How wise that my friend recognized when she didn’t know what to say. How good that she is slowing her pace and diligently seeking God-breathed insights to offer. She hasn’t settled for repeating what someone else has said on the subject, or forging ahead and trying to force the section to come together. How wonderful that she is seeking the Lord for his take on the matter, instead of taking an easier way.
My writer friend is also a mom and a midwife. To encourage her in this new type of labor, I reminded her that birthing a book, Spirit-to-spirit, is a lot like birthing a baby.
A moving-with kind of work
Each pregnancy is unique. Some are easy; some, more difficult. Some parts of a pregnancy go smoothly; some do not. All through pregnancy and even up to the moment of birth, it’s important for the expectant mom to seek and receive help from others. Yet she carries the growing baby. She does the birthing. The process culminates with labor. It’s hard work, but it’s a cooperative work, a moving-with kind of work, not a fighting-against kind. The one in whom the life is growing cooperates with the baby trying to enter the world and with the God who alone gives life.
Take note, men, that this analogy isn’t just for the ladies. The apostle Paul spoke of the labor he experienced in working out his calling – a from-the-Spirit calling that included writing much of the New Testament. Paul addressed the Galatians as:
My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you (Gal. 4:19).
He wrote to the Colossians:
For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me (Col. 1:29 NASU).
If you’re seeking to write a book or to do any challenging work by the Spirit, remember: Bringing to birth will require your labor and his power working mightily within you.
Further, bringing forth a viable book – or any other work that is living, breathing and life-giving – requires waiting and cooperating with God through the whole gestation period, however long he designates it to be. Every pregnancy has a beginning and an end. No matter how interminable the time may seem, you will not stay pregnant forever. What you want is not to hurry the process nor to prolong it, but to complete it in the God-appointed time, so that what comes forth is Spirit and life.
The lament of Isaiah 26:18 poignantly describes what happens when we try our best, apart from the Spirit – or start by the Spirit and later abandon him to opt for what appears a quicker or easier way:
We were with child, we writhed in labor, but we gave birth to wind. We have not brought salvation to the earth, and the people of the world have not come to life (Isa. 26:18).
How different when you’re pregnant with words God is forming in you and you labor from the spirit to deliver this new thing! Life breaks through!
“Shall I bring to the point of birth and not give delivery?” says the Lord. “Or shall I who gives delivery shut the womb?” says your God (Isa. 66:9 NASU).
What he conceives and nurtures to maturity within you, he will bring to birth.
An obstruction I’ve faced
When it comes to writing, I’m well-acquainted with both lengthy and short pregnancies. As of this summer, I’ve authored eight published books. It took 26 years to complete and publish the first four. It has taken three years to produce the last four. To my utter astonishment, I wrote the entire 40,000-plus words of my sixth book, The Elijah Blessing: An Undivided Heart, in one month.
Paradoxically, the books that have poured from me the quickest have typically been developing inside me the longest. And the parts of each book that I’ve struggled the most to bring forth have often been the most revelatory and life-changing – both for me and for the people who read my work.
Almost always, when I’ve had to press in – even to wrestle – to hear and speak a particular truth, something in me was resisting knowing and/or saying that truth. But God knew the book wouldn’t be whole without it.
Each time, to get written what God wanted me to write, I had to let him show me what it was in me that stood in the way. I had to see, and to do whatever the Lord told me to do to remove the obstruction blocking Spirit-to-spirit communion.
Any number of things can create such an obstruction. The Lord is well able to reveal and to remove each hindrance, but always he awaits our cooperation. In a word, the obstruction that has most often threatened to abort my writing is fear.
In The Elijah Blessing, I struggled most with the chapters that explore how differently Ahab and Jezebel look and work from what we’ve often thought. Finally, I realized the confusion erupted specifically when I tried to move forward with those chapters. The confusion wasn’t from God, but it was able to buffet me until I cried out to the Lord to anchor me in his peace.
In We Confess! The Civil War, the South, and the Church, I sometimes found myself tiptoeing all around a subject, writing paragraph after paragraph that wandered hopelessly and went nowhere. Each time, when I finally got frustrated enough to sit back and ask, “What’s wrong, Lord?” I heard him answer, “Just say it, Deborah.”
Sometimes, out of fear, I’ve skipped a topic altogether and jumped straight to something else. In the first draft of What About Women? A Spirit-to-spirit Exposé, I skirted the issue of submission. Basically, I wrote what I’ve known in my spirit for some years now: “Submission doesn’t look at all as we have thought.”
I didn’t go any further until a woman who read the draft advised me, gently but firmly, that I had stopped short. Sure enough, I had avoided asking the Lord the obvious question: “So what does godly submission look like?” Part of me had feared what God would say. A much bigger part of me feared having to speak it, once he said it. But when I asked, listened, revisited the Scriptures with an open heart and struggled through to put into words what I was hearing, the life in that section of the book soared.
Each time I’ve confessed the fear, deleted the junk it produced and agreed once more to speak the truth in love, voilà!, the words have begun to flow again. The wrestling might continue, as I struggle to form insights received in my spirit into accurate, life-giving words. But once again, I’m moving with, not fighting against. Once again, I labor toward birth, leaning into the power of the Spirit as he freely and mightily works within me.
A labor of life
Writing from the Spirit is seeking with all your heart to hear, translate into words and faithfully record what God the Spirit speaks into your human spirit.
Writing from the Spirit doesn’t mean writing effortlessly. It means pressing in through every hindrance to cooperate with God in birthing what is fully formed and what breathes with his life.