ACW

ACW

Thursday, 19 March 2015

They also serve who only sit and write, by Veronica Zundel

One of the 'uses' of the Bible Paul lists in his second letter to Timothy is 'reproof'. And there are few better books for that than Amos. We're studying it at the moment in our home group, focusing  on the prophet's message both for his time, and for today. So inevitably, we are talking about the pressing social issues of our world, nation and community, which are remarkably similar to those of Amos' day. The unholy trinity of money, sex and power still do their usual work of corruption and oppression.

Being a church with a strong emphasis on peace and justice, we have several members who work in deprived areas, or for campaigning charities. However I suggested the other night that Amos was not actually an  activist: he didn't personally go out and  change  the abuses in his society.  Instead his job was to identify and proclaim what was wrong. His powerful words shamed others' behaviour, predicted what would come of it, and offered hope to those at the bottom of the heap. I don't think my statement went down particularly well. One member pointed out that the prophets were very active, going out to where the people were and confronting them. But something still niggled.

As a teenage convert, I was sure God would call me  to work with Mother Teresa, or something equally heroic. We are fed, after all, with missionary biographies or accounts of dangerous, pioneering work in far-flung places; and it's easy to feel that the 'real' Christians are the ones in those books. Think about it for a moment, though. Who tells those tales of bold Christian endeavour that might inspire others to serve similarly? It's the writer, sitting alone at her computer, not feeling she's changing anything very much. Amos, after all, had no publishers, and had to go out into the streets; but we are at several removes from our readers, and rarely get feedback, positive or negative. It's easy (at least for me)  to get consumed by guilt that I am not 'out there' doing something to bring the Kingdom of God a  bit nearer.

But we need not echo Woody Allen's words: 'My one regret in life is that I am not someone else'. If God has called you to writing, that calling is as honourable as any other more socially engaged vocations. Without stories, whether missionary biographies or redemptive novels, humankind perishes - which may be one reason the Bible consists mainly of stories (the other reason is that three-quarters of it was not written by Christians... ) Sometimes, words do speak as loudly as actions; and what is more, they can lead ourselves or others to actions, can comfort and encourage those who are drained by action, can offer visions of the world to which those actions might lead. So (while I know many look up with awe to actual published writers), don't let anyone question the value of your being 'only' a writer.



Veronica Zundel is a freelance writer whose latest book is Everything I know about God, I've learned from being a parent (BRF 2013). She also writes a column for Woman Alive magazine, and Bible notes for New Daylight. Veronica belongs to the only non-conservative, English speaking Mennonite church in the UK, and also blogs at reversedstandard.com

13 comments:

  1. Thank you, Veronica, this resonates!

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  2. Well said, Veronica. This echoes everything I've been trying to say (to myself as well as others) recently. I'm a member of a very active 'outside the wall's church, which does wonderful work in the town, local schools and surrounding areas. Like you, I've struggled with a sense of guilt and inferiority at times, while knowing, inside, that writing is what I've been called to. Thank you for bringing this to the attention of others.

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  3. This is great encouragement for whatever our little corner of service may be and such a great view on what we write thank you :)

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  4. Occasionally we learn how our writing has helped someone. With the emphasis on occasionally. This is encouragement to carry on writing. It is very easy to be discouraged. I gave up for almost twenty years. We need to remember that if our writing is read by a non-writer, we are unlikely to have any feedback. This doesn't mean that no-one is considering what we have written.

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  5. This is a great post, we are all different and called to serve in different ways. I've recently been learning about some of the Saints, and have been struck how many of them were not great activists (although some were), but simply acted in a counter-cultural way, seeking solitude with God, and so many people were attracted to follow them. They didn't seek this following, or set up programmes, they followed their path, and God did the rest!

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  6. Great post Veronica. God knows the impact of our service and that is all that matters.

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  7. I used to be in OM and I have never forgotten George Verwer's words about the power of the written word to change things, make a difference. It's never left me.

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  8. Hi Veronica, Just waving, and not quite drowning, under too much work for a couple of 'events' ... some great points here. Also, I loved it that Susan pointed out that if a non-writer reads our work, they don't give feed-back - how true, they have no idea what food to the writerly soul feedback can be! Amos, of course, didn't write and couldn't vote: we can ... though we wonder if either makes any difference! Hope to see you at Scargill again - are you thinking of coming this year?

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  9. A good read - thanks for this, Veronica. I like to think that if I can entertain people or make them smile, I've done some good in the world. I think Woody Allen probably aimed to do the same, although you wouldn't know it from the quotation above!

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  10. This was such a great post - full of wisdom and reassurance to keep listening to that voice in our heads. Thanks Veronica.

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  11. This was such a great post - full of wisdom and reassurance to keep listening to that voice in our heads. Thanks Veronica.

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  12. I've just logged on to check my post had arrived, and read through the others. They are all so encouraging, but we seem to have a similar message that God wants to assure His writers' that in a positive way 'they know not what they do' and the lives that are changed by their writing, now and in the future. We are indeed, the pens of ready writers, waiting to record His words in whatever genre we write.

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  13. We all have God's 'creative DNA' in us and writing is one expression of that (as is painting, sculpture, pottery, music, dance, etc) I am often aware of 'God/Jesus at my elbow' as I write. It is a wonderful privilege to be one of the kingdom's writers.

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