My friend Ruthie texted me earlier this week, “Have you got a minute? Have a ‘writing’ question.”
She asked because I had told her what God was putting on my heart: “I want to help people learn to write from the spirit.” That is, I want to help people write from the Spirit, to recognize and respond to the voice of Holy Spirit. AND I want to help people learn to write from the spirit, to receive what Holy Spirit is speaking into our human spirit before we try to assimilate it in our soul.
Typically, we’ve done just the opposite. We’ve tried to write soul-first, sometimes with a nod to the spirit, but more often silencing the human spirit and, thus, quenching the Holy Spirit. Sadly, many of our Christian writing helps encourage – and even insist on – the soul-first approach. We conspire together to produce manuscripts that may get published and may get purchased and read, but can only reproduce after their kind.
Soul-first writing gorges the soul and starves the spirit. It may ensure us an audience, for it can become addictive. Promising what it cannot produce, it may give readers more knowledge, perhaps even more Bible knowledge. It may thrill their emotions. Yet it never satisfies in the deepest part.
Some of you are already clamoring for a “scriptural basis” for these thoughts. Some want me to hit Pause and explain in detail what I meant by the three paragraphs above. Truth is, I’m having a soul-spirit battle on this very point. My soul is insisting that I logically explain ideas many Western Christians have never heard before. My soul is urging me to start spouting biblical references, to convince readers not familiar with these concepts not to reject them out-of-hand.
But my spirit knows that those who can be convinced by logic can also be dissuaded by logic. My spirit knows this teaching will bear most fruit in those who press in because they sense God’s nod in their innermost being, before they understand or feel comfortable with the concepts.
Scriptures will follow in other posts. Explanations will also unfold. But for now, let me assure you: Learning to write spirit-first requires learning to live spirit-first. It requires cultivating Spirit-to-spirit intimacy with God.
Sadly, it also requires bucking the current Christian-writing system. It requires choosing to let spirit-first living carry over into your writing and, in fact, lead you where the soul-first approach insists you must not go.
Warning: If your ultimate goal is getting published, this approach isn’t for you. If your ultimate goal is to sell lots of articles or books or to make lots of money, this approach isn’t for you. If your ultimate goal is to write as sloppily and incoherently as you please, and to call that “hearing from God,” this approach isn’t for you either.
However: If something inexplicable deep in your gut is crying, “I want to write what honors God! I want to write what furthers his kingdom!” – ah, this approach is for you. Be aware: God will have to cultivate and purify that desire. The process will be both wonderful and painful. The results will be miraculous and life-giving.
As a byproduct of Writing from the Spirit, you may well be published. You may be widely read. You may make money from your writing. Or you may not. That’s up to the Lord. What he has promised is to meet your needs. Be aware: He himself will hold you accountable not to let anything or anyone other than him become your first passion. Matthew 6:33 declares, “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
My friend Ruthie has been teaching for years, but she’s just starting to write. In response to her text, I called her, and we talked. Afterward, she sent me an email. It said, in part:
Today your words, advice and in particular your prayer have shifted something in me . . .
As we talked I was so blessed in my spirit! You were soooo encouraging to me! It’s as if I was somehow lifted up. You believed that I could do this! I cannot tell you what this did for me inside.
And your practical words of wisdom cut through the fear of failure, and showed me the way through all of my questions.”
In a follow-up email, Ruthie said, “Today, I had the house to myself and no agenda except to write! After yesterday’s encouragement I WROTE!!!”
Now, Father, I come to you by the Spirit in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. I ask you that Ruthie will be a firstfruits, that you will so fill me and anoint me for this ministry that what was accomplished in her will be accomplished again and again and again, as you raise up an army of writers who will learn to distinguish soul from spirit and will choose the oh-so-challenging, oh-so-rewarding path of Writing from the Spirit.
I pray for those who have started out on this path, only to be turned aside by experts who led them astray. You know, Lord, that the experts did this without malice or ill intent. They taught what they themselves had been taught. But now, Lord, I ask you: Find these deflected ones. Encounter them. Heal them. Open their eyes. Recapture their hearts.
Find the timid. Find the proud. Lift up those who have not written because they’ve believed the lies that they have no voice and have nothing of merit to say. Lower those who live for a “pride high,” who’ve believed the lies that their words count more than other people’s, who’ve sold their words as yours. Show us how desperately we all need to learn from you, Spirit-to-spirit. Show us how desperately we all need to learn from one another, spirit-to-spirit.
Show us your ways, Lord. Teach us your paths. Transform us into a bold, creative, gracious, tenacious, life-giving, darkness-defeating company who so wield your words that your name is honored and your kingdom furthered.