“I shot an arrow in the airLong, long afterward, in an oak
It fell to earth, I knew not where. . .
It fell to earth, I knew not where. . .
I found the arrow, still unbroke
As I contemplated the curious place I am in right now, the lines from the poem, “The Arrow and the Song”, came floating up from the depths of my high school love affair with the poetry of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
The words capture a theme I have seen in the lives of my heroes and have clung to in my own life: When we release something, whether it be an act of service, a book we’ve written, or ultimately—our lives—it belongs to God.
Shortly, I will take down the picture of my book and it will also disappear from Amazon because an arrow I shot in the air landed in a most unexpected place. I know everyone’s’ story is different, but I hope this recap of my particular journey will be an inspiration and encouragement not only to my writer friends longing for publication, but for anyone wondering if their efforts are bearing fruit anywhere.
I am not particularly given to visions, but I believe the impressions I had for this project were God-given as means of encouragement. (I know I’ve told parts before, just in case you’re thinking she’s getting daffy.)
During a women’s conference last fall, the young leader suggested we all take a moment to imagine what we would be wearing at the banquet with the Lord. Not being a woman of fashion or imagination, I moaned about doing her exercise. She sat next to me. “I can see you what you’re wearing,” she said. It’s a sleeveless gown, but it’s your arms I notice. They’re strong arms.”
“Yes. Woman warrior,” I said, raising my arms as if launching an arrow from my bow.
Sometime after that, I saw the Women of Faith/WestBow press writing contest. Although my book had won several prizes at conferences, it had little chance of traditional publication since it was considered memoir. Ironically, the man who is now my agent even turned it down! Still, I resisted opportunities to self-publish, not knowing why, except it wasn’t time. But this contest felt exactly right.
I submitted my manuscript. Then, inexplicably, I was overcome with a spirit of fear, failure, insecurity, and self-doubt—I even questioned my own faith. In the midst of this troubling time, I came upon Psalm 78:9,11: “The sons of Ephraim were archers equipped with bows, yet they turned back in the day of battle. They forgot his deeds and the miracles He had shown them.”
I knew the Lord was telling me He had equipped me, and that if I turned back it was because of fear and worse--refusal to trust Him--not because I lacked what was needed.
Being equipped with arrows became a strong metaphor, even in my prayer life. I read that before Elisha died, he told fretful King Joash to take up his bow, open the window, and shoot, “The Lord’s arrow of victory over Syria,” (2 Kings 14-17), so whenever I felt that myself or someone I was praying for was being attacked, I opened my arsenal of faith and shot an arrow of victory into the heart of the enemy.
After I found out I was a finalist in the writing contest, I spent a lot of time speculating on my chances. One day, in church, my thoughts drifted to my book instead of God’s Book. Suddenly, I saw the pages of my book fluttering away (like the file download icon). At first I worried they were being scattered, but then I knew with the knowing that captures your whole being and not just your mind, that I was giving them over to God.
And I would wait and see what He would do.
I have to admit a bit of density here. During this whole process, I never connected my arrow imagery with the publishing company behind the contest: WestBow. In fact, it was days after I saw I had won that WestBow’s logo hit me: an archer.
Isn’t the Lord grand! He gave his woman warrior an archer press!
But as if that weren’t enough, little did I suspect other people were noticing. The people at Thomas Nelson, the traditional publisher I typically wouldn’t have stood a chance with. Not only did they notice, but they bought.
What began as a paper in a writing workshop, became a contest winner, self-publication, and soon to be—traditionally published title.
We never know what He will do with the things we release to Him. They’re His.
Thank you to the fine staff at WestBow who did a great job with my story and cover picture I sent with a hundred sticky notes attached! Meanwhile Call of a Coward will disappear in its present form until it comes out in 2012 with Thomas Nelson.