Signposts – Part I

Signposts – Part I

Someone once said writing is like driving at night. The headlights illuminate a limited distance, but you can make the whole trip that way.

My journey into writing began in that fashion. God provided light for the “next step.” He prodded me with signposts, advancing me little by little. Though slow on the uptake, I realize now that finding purpose usually involves years of preparation. Here’s how it happened to me.

One day, over 25 years ago, I could barely address an envelope—a troubling realization. Tiny muscles in my hand simply froze, and I couldn’t move the pen. Fearing it was symptomatic of something far worse, I went to two different neurologists. Both came up with a condition known as, “Writers Cramp.” While that term is used interchangeably with “Writer’s Block,” it’s not the same. Writer’s Cramp is a medical anomaly that’s physical, not mental. And, it’s not from overuse like Carpal Tunnel. In fact, they don’t understand what causes it, and no known case has ever improved.

In a way, I felt relieved. The major motor muscles in my hand still worked. I could play piano and type. Other people coped with worse disabilities. Mine seemed relatively benign.

Then…one April morning, after brewing some coffee, I climbed back in bed with my Bible. Turning to Genesis 45, I read about Joseph and his brothers—a true story of unjust suffering. Sold as a slave by jealous siblings, Joseph rose in stature from prisoner to “Prime Minister” in Egypt. As famine swept the land, his brothers came to Egypt in desperation. With tear-stained cheeks, Joseph forgave them for the past and summed up the big picture with a timeless principle: “What you meant for evil, God has used for good.” The story deeply moved me, and I wanted to put my thoughts on paper.

“Oh God,” I prayed. “I wish I could write about this.”

Apparently God heard my request. For the next two hours I wrote with perfect fluidity. Muscles, tendons, joints and bones—all worked together, moving the pen across the page in perfect synchronicity. No paralyzing cramps. No stiff joints. I flexed my fingers and shook my head in disbelief. How could this be? What made it happen? The pages in my journal were tangible evidence. To me, it was nothing short of a miracle.

Later that afternoon, my hand seized up as usual.

Some time after that, I had lunch with my pastor, Jim Tharp. I told him the story. “What do you make of it?” I asked.

His southern drawl always put me at ease. “I think God gave you a little miracle to raise your faith,” he said, cutting his sandwich.

My curiosity escalated. “Why would He raise my faith?” I wanted to believe God intervened in little problems and everyday situations. But was that farfetched?

“God wants to raise your faith to the point where you might believe He’ll fully restore your hand.” Jim paused. He had a faraway look in his eyes. Then he made eye contact with me. “I think He plans to do just that.”

“Really?” I said, remembering the doctor’s words.

“Yes.” He spoke with confidence. “And when He heals you, it’s a signal that He wants you to write for Him. Maybe even a book. There’s something significant about this.”

I was stunned. Obviously, he hadn’t seen my SAT scores. I was strong in Math, not English.

More time passed. Then during a brief afternoon nap, I had a dream. In the scene, a man stood next to a bed where I lay resting. I never saw his face but His presence radiated kindness and authority. (I know now the man represented the Holy Spirit.) I noticed a stenographer’s notebook and a pen in His hands. After a moment, He stepped forward and placed the items on my stomach (or womb, a place where something new is birthed). It seemed as if He was returning something (my ability to write physically). But there was more. He also handed me the pad and pen with intention—something to be used for a purpose, (a signal to write for Him). The symbolism was intriguing. I took note of the short dream but did not yet understand the parenthetical comments I have added here.

The very next day, Duncan and I traveled to Toronto to visit a small church in a nondescript strip mall. For a full year, the church had been experiencing miraculous signs and wonders, similar to stories from the Great Awakening. On that bitter cold January night, we stood in line for three hours just to get in the building. We met people from all over the world—as far away as Japan and Australia. The line grew longer by the minute. Some would not make it inside.

The service started with the old hymn, “Holy, Holy, Holy.” Others around me sang in foreign languages, though we all carried the same tune. It was a living example of “every tribe and every nation,” worshipping together before the throne of heaven.

Toward the end of the service, the pastor invited anyone needing prayer to come forward. A woman on their staff prayed that God would heal my hand. No lightning flashes came. No angelic choir music. Just an ordinary person offering a simple prayer on my behalf. But faith ran high in that atmosphere. Things happen when we overcome unbelief. And gradually, over the next six months, my ability to write was physically restored.

Now you’d think I’d remember what my pastor said. Even the name of the disability—Writers Cramp—was a clue! Yet I had no vision to be a writer. And, I’m embarrassed to admit that nine more years passed, before I really took writing seriously. But God embraced me as a “person-in-process,” waiting with extravagant patience.

Part II coming next week.