You may be looking for ‘validation’ in the wrong place
Last week, I responded to a seemingly personal follow-up email from a webinar host. She’d sent it because she liked my response to a question she’d asked attendees: “Why do you blog?”
“I want to be a conduit for God’s love,” I had replied in the webinar chat, my reflection from last week fresh in my mind.
“And Sara gave a heartfelt reason,” the host had said. She was calling out the different answers from the mostly female attendees.
Was her follow-up email just a sales tactic? She was selling a course, after all (one I really wanted to take). Or was she singling me out because she “loved getting to hear your ‘why’,” as she had indicated?
My whiny response
I responded to her email on a day when I published a blog post that received less than a handful of “likes,” one comment, and a couple new followers for my blog. I was discouraged.
“Why do I bother?” I thought. “Is anyone paying attention? Does anyone benefit because of what I write?“
My takeaway from the webinar was “Write FOR the reader.” One of her tips had been to capture the “WIIFM” (what’s in it for me) for the reader in the headline. Did I have a clear WIIFM for my readers? Was I writing anything that would benefit them?
So my response to her email was a bit whiny as I attempted to answer the question she now presented: “What is your biggest challenge in blogging?”
“My biggest challenge right now is confidence,” I typed. “I just want someone to look at my posts and tell me I DO offer something of value to my readers (and listeners).”
What I really meant was that I wanted HER to look at my posts and tell me I was on the right track (or suggest an easy fix), but, of course, I didn’t say that. (Just added it here because my secret’s safe with you, right?)
I didn’t get a response*. Perhaps because I told her that since I don’t make any money from writing, my husband doesn’t believe in what I do enough to say “yes” to pay for courses. (Well, any more courses!) Perhaps because I asked if she would barter instead — give me her course in exchange for some service from me.
“I’m a great editor,” I concluded.
(Today I looked back at the email and saw I’d written you’re instead of your. Yeah. Not a great showcase of my editing skills.)
My tearful call
Later that same morning I sent my email response, I talked with my niece and expressed my discouragement. In response, she shared a story about a blogger who thought no one was reading and so stopped posting.
“A couple of months later, she received an email from a stranger, a follower who said he noticed she hadn’t been posting and hoped she was OK,” Megan said. “He said he’d read every post and hoped she would publish again soon because he truly benefitted from what she wrote.”
She never knew. Knowing changed everything. So the blogger resumed writing — for him. One person.
“You can write for one,” Megan then told me. “What if God is saying to Himself, ‘I wonder what Sara’s going to write today?'”
I cried as she spoke those words, my nose turning bright red despite Zoom’s gracious touch-up of my appearance. I felt encouraged. Yes, I can write for one, I thought. Him.
My frustrated journaling
On Friday, I journaled my frustrations. I told God that I knew He was enough and that He could guide and direct me in my writing. But I also told him I felt compelled to take this course.
“It seems I should work smarter, not harder, and she could show me how,” I had written.
“Just ask,” I heard Him tell me.
I wrote the two words in my journal, followed by these three short sentences, each on its own line:
“OK, I will.”
“Maybe I could ask my boss to pay for it?”
Before I left for work, I asked my husband about paying for the course. I felt I should “just ask” him. His response?
“Why don’t you ask your boss to pay for it?”
Why not, indeed? God was speaking to me and through my husband the same message. The course is related to what I do for work.
(After I returned from a writing conference I’d paid for myself, a colleague asked me why I had used vacation time and my own funds. “It was personal,” I’d said. “It was related to what you do at work and will make you better here, too,” he responded. Lesson learned.)
I sent the query to my boss.
“Sure,” he said. Moments later, my operations manager registered me for the course.
My humbled (and joyful) reset
I sent my niece the news and we celebrated the answer to our prayer of the day before. A few minutes later, I received an email devotional from Allen Arnold, author of <a href=”http://<a target=”_blank” href=”https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01KSGJ3TO/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_hsch_vapi_tkin_p1_i0?&_encoding=UTF8&tag=allthingswo01-20&linkCode=ur2&linkId=f19f347206501632f476bc687a812226&camp=1789&creative=9325″>Allen Arnold Story of WithThe Story of With. I had to share his words of wisdom inside it with Megan:
“When you give anyone or anything other than God the power to validate your creativity, you set yourself up for striving and disappointment,” he’d written.
“Your gifting becomes a burden when you expect it to validate you or pay all the bills. Release all your expectations. Remember your gifts come from God. Enter into the simple joy.”<a href=”http://<a target=”_blank” href=”https://www.amazon.com/Allen-Arnold/e/B08P19XJSL?ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_2&qid=1653329603&sr=8-2&_encoding=UTF8&tag=allthingswo01-20&linkCode=ur2&linkId=3cd1fa75b25b9f23de9ca5440c04e4af&camp=1789&creative=9325″>Allen Arnold BooksAllen Arnold
It was as if he’d read my email to the webinar host and properly spanked me for it — and so encouraged me, too.
Ultimately, I am writing for an audience of one. Not Allen Arnold, to be clear. Or the webinar host who will be my teacher for five weeks this summer. God. Writing is God’s gift to me — and my gift to Him. And my gift to you as a conduit of God’s love.
Perhaps you are a writer or creative, too. Or maybe you simply give of yourself to your family or friends or clients or colleagues. Maybe you too feel spent, discouraged, unappreciated, unnoticed.
Voice those frustrations to God. Ask him to validate your efforts. And work for Him, as the Apostle Paul encouraged the Colossians to do:
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”(Colossians 3:23-24, NIV)
If you’re like me and trying to grow in your craft, ask God to provide a way to make that happen. I’m not saying settle for “just” an audience of One. As Paul indicates, work with all your heart — but leave the results to God. And pursue excellence as you do!
*(If you’re curious as to the course I get to take, leave me a comment, and I’ll spill the beans! The webinar host/my new teacher did respond to my email with her heartfelt response, just after I wrote all the above.)
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