I have articles from the Department of Justice sitting all around my ankles, sprayed out like a fan in neat little piles. I haven’t strayed far from the computer for hours and a babysitter is attending to my daughter. A half-started and half-witted attempt to summarize the laws of Medicare fraud lies unattended on the screen in front of me as deadlines await. Deadlines that amount to paychecks, that amount to more gardening supplies and summer sundresses and art camps. I will finish it on time. I will somehow find the energy. God let me finish.
It’s not that words are hard to come by. I live in words. I both admire and abhor them. I want to stomp on them like ripe grapes and feel the juice squirting out between my toes. The problem with words is that I simply can’t escape them. I am drawn to words that make me laugh or cry or feel something different. Legal writing doesn’t invoke that same emotion, which is why I drift into my daydreams. Dreams of stories and beauty and adjective-filled rooms filled with light.
When I lie in bed at night, with dishpan hands and a tired back, my fingers tap away at some imaginary keyboard in the sky. I can hear the repetitive sound of my hands striking the letters like summer storms on a metal roof. Rapping and pelting and beating down while I’m trying to sleep or pray or just lie there in peace. I try to shake them from my head, but like the ringing in one’s ears, it’s a fool’s game.
So I keep driving to the grocery store, or to the bank drive-through. I drop off my husband’s dry cleaning and help my daughter cut out caterpillars out of yellow construction paper. But sentences keep forming like ribbons out of my brain, some constant output I can’t seem to shut off. My daily life is so busy I don’t often do anything with them. They are just mental litter, thrown away like discarded trash. There are times I just want words to leave me be. To allow me to sit silently without thinking, or hearing that incessant tapping of the keys, or the phrasing of sentences. I want to scream at them to shut up already. Sometimes, I just want to sit and not think of all those stupid, stupid words.
But we all have our gifts, whether we are paid for them or not. We all carry with us some unyielding urge to create, albeit in different forms. I firmly believe that God chose to give each of us the gifts that we were meant to have, and there’s little way around it. According to Exodus, the Lord told Moses that he chose Bezalel, son of Uri, to oversee the task of building the tabernacle. “I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts — to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of craftsmanship.” Exodus 31:3. Paul explained in 1 Corinthians 12 that all the gifts we have been given “are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one just as he determines.”
I may, or may not, ever get paid for my words. The novel that took me years to finish, with nights of sobbing and mornings of great exaltations, might never be read by the New York Times or by a single woman in the suburbs of Chicago. The words that plague my sleep and dominate my fingers might be small to most. But they are ultimately from God. They need to be used and cultivated so that when they spring forth from my head, they are as tulips rather than dandelions.
I thank God for words, even though sometimes they feel like a burden. But when the burden is for a higher good, and the purpose so great, can one really complain?
Lord, please let my words and the aching of my heart be acceptable to you, in your sight, and in your most perfect glory. Thank you for these ribbons that flow from my thoughts. Help me piece and string them all together as jewelry fit for a king.