I just returned from my fourth American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) writing conference. I brought home priceless memories, lived through some struggles and am pondering lessons learned during my four days in Dallas, Texas.
The challenging aspects of the conference always come down to my innate tendency to: 1) compare myself to others and where they are in their journey, and 2) question my giftings as a writer.
After one disappointing pitch appointment, I caught myself second-guessing my ability to craft a worthwhile story. That wound I walk around with . . . the one called rejection . . . it began speaking lies into my thoughts, and I fought the funk that accompanied its words.
God reminded me that He has not (nor will He ever) rejected me. Sometimes He uses man’s rejection to reveal what’s in my heart.
When our wound is tapped, our hearts are laid bare. I was seeking affirmation from men. God showed me I’d fallen into believing the lie that I’m enough in and of myself. I can’t do this writing-journey well on my own. I’m dependent on Him in every step I take. It’s not my role to tell Him how things should be done. My role is to trust Him to guide me.
Later, I craved time to be still and worship the Lord. I yearned to hear His voice—to come and remember who He is. As I sought Him out, He met me and re-aligned my perspective.
At the gala on the final night, the winners for the Genesis contest were announced. I was a finalist, but someone else won. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed.
When I rely on myself, of course I’m going to be disappointed. I’m unable open doors only God is meant to open.
But this: whether or not I win contests . . .
. . . whether or not agents and editors like my stories . . . isn’t the goal.
My goals are these: to bring God glory through my writing, and to point others to Him. When my focus veers off these, I open myself up to being punched by fear. When my desires are yielded to His, and I trust His plan and timing, fear won’t sway me.
These are the heart lesson takeaways from this year’s conference:
- When we put ourselves out there, there’s no guarantee we’ll receive the reward we hope for. Sometimes, being brave doesn’t pay off the way we expect. Those fears that held us back may be validated. It’s hard to be brave when our wound gets stomped on. But, when we choose to trust God and step out again? We grow in character and in trusting Him.
- Connections are more important than wins. Though I didn’t win the Genesis, I met some amazing people in different aspects of the industry. The relationships begun and deepened are far more meaningful than being able to say, “I’m a Genesis winner.” Relationships far outlive a line on my resumé.
- It’s okay to want to win. It’s okay to feel disappointed when we don’t. If we don’t allow ourselves the freedom to desire, we live in fear of pain. Pain is not the enemy; fear is.
- Not everyone will like or agree with what we are doing—writing or otherwise. We may fall short of others’ expectations. And that is okay, as long as we’re following God’s leading. We must set our eyes on Him and not on that which we want. God’s plans for us are always broader and better than anything we strive for in our own strength.
- When we trust God’s plan, we can enter bigger-than-us situations with confidence. When we know we’re where we are supposed to be, we can walk with His peace inside us.
These lessons sound writing-related, but they translate to other areas of life. I came away from this conference very aware of God’s nearness and of my absolute need to walk this journey with Him.
What about you? If you attended ACFW, what lesson did you take away? What heart lessons have you been learning over the past few months?