He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?” (Mark 4:40)
I’m reading from the Revised Standard Version. This verse comes from the story of Jesus calming the storm on the sea of Galilee (Mark 4:35-41). With so many translations available now, some words might be different, but this is basically how most of them read this verse. Occasionally, though, you find someone who wants their translation to stand apart, like one that says, Jesus reprimanded the disciples: “Why are you such cowards? Don’t you have any faith at all?” (The Message).
As a writer, I look at that and say, “Wow, that’s powerful dialogue. It’s got some punch to it.” But as a follower of Jesus, I have to be honest, I don’t respond well to that kind of tone. It just reminds me of so many times when I was wracked with guilt for not having enough faith, which led to me thinking I was a coward, and of course, God does not bless cowards, which was why He wasn’t blessing me.
A couple of weeks ago, Fran and I went to a baby shower at a friend’s church. The preacher was very good. She preached from this text – Yes, she was a woman, and with an accent that sounded Australian. Not what you expect to find in the boondocks of Abbeville County. Anyway, the version she read from said it this way: “Why are you afraid? Where is your faith?”
I haven’t been able to find this translation. I guess I will have to go back to that church and see what they use as their pew Bibles. In her message, she pointed out that Jesus was not condemning or reprimanding the disciples. He was not berating them, saying, “Why are you such cowards? Don’t you have any faith at all?” as that one translation put it. He did not even get angry at them for waking him up. Because if you remember, Jesus was in the bottom of the boat asleep, and they had to wake him up, saying, “Don’t you care if we perish?”
First, he calmed the storm, so they could hear him clearly. And then, the question was, “Where is your faith?” In other words, have you forgotten your faith? Have you forgotten who I am? And in the midst of the storm, it is so easy to forget.
I felt so good when I finally finished the manuscript for my novel. When I shopped it around to agents and editors, however, they weren’t exactly thrilled. And the most common and frustrating objection I kept hearing was they didn’t want multiple points of view. It’s too confusing.
Are you kidding me? I know there are bestsellers with multiple points of view. Some of my favorite authors use multiple points of view. How can you tell me multiple POV makes my novel unpublishable?
Those who use it are already bestsellers. And I’m not an established bestselling author.
I seriously considered reworking it to tell the story with two point of view characters. Maybe I could, but I don’t believe it would be as good a story if I did. And only one point of view character for the whole novel? Forget it.
Don’t you care if I perish?
So I turn to God like, “Why didn’t you tell me? How was I supposed to know they wouldn’t publish multiple points of view?”
I wrestle for weeks and months with what to do. Should I keep looking for that one publisher who’s willing to take a chance on me? Should I try to make a better query letter and book proposal? Or should I go through the daunting task of self-publishing it? Eventually, a conversation like this unfolded in my mind.
Do you believe God gave you this story? Yes.
Do you believe God would give you an unpublishable story? No. No. NO! God did not give me this story, knowing how long it would take, writing and rewriting every scene until I had it to where I thought it was good enough to publish, and had that confirmed from critique groups and friends and family, just to find out, “Sorry, the publishing industry has changed. No one is buying novels with multiple points of view anymore.” Agents and editors know a lot, but they don’t know everything.
So now what are you going to do? There must be a path to publication, and God knows what that is. I will seek, and I will find it.
Storms in the life of a creative
If you believe God has given you a gift of creativity, at some point you have to share that gift with the world. No matter how you decide to do that, there will be storms ahead. You may think you will never be as good as that writer you admire so much. You may get so many rejections that it will cause you to question every decision you’ve made in life. You may start a blog and after two years still have fewer followers than your shirt size, and then hear that Edie Melson’s blog has 900,000 followers and wonder what you’re doing wrong. You may hear God calling you to make this your career, and six months later you’re not even being paid enough to make rent or mortgage payments. And I could go on, but I don’t want you to lose sight of the hope offered in this story.
In these storms, do you hear Jesus saying, “Why are you afraid? Where is your faith?” To me, that is a gentle reminder that God did not send me out in this boat to drown in the storm halfway to the other side. It simply comes down to what everything in life seems to come down to: God saying, “Do you trust me?”
Now hear these words from Isaiah.
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you” (Is 43:2).
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