By Amanda Cleary Eastep
The Small boys lived next door to us in the “new subdivision,” one round block of bi-levels and tri-levels on the outskirts of a small farm town. In the summer, all of us children scattered, bike wheels and skinny legs carrying us all the way to the other side of the block or to the “old” subdivision or even to the K&J downtown for red licorice laces.
Everyone on our side of the block knew when it was time for dinner at the Smalls. The petite, blonde mother would step out onto the concrete stoop of the ranch home (one of the five designs originally offered by the developer) and pull the cord of the iron bell attached to the brick wall.
The clanging embarrassed me as I would watch the two brothers drop baseballs/sand shovels/half-melted ice pops and run home for dinner.
Was dinner that good? I wondered. Were there dire consequences for not promptly answering the bell? I didn’t know.
I was just glad my mother resorted to simply screaming our names when it was time to eat. Plus she probably figured Gorton’s fishsticks and tater tots didn’t warrant the tolling of a bell.
Of course, we don’t have to answer a call. We can ignore it, pursue it as a hobby, or maybe never care enough to tune our hearing to its tone and timbre.
But it won’t stop ringing.
Writer Elizabeth Berg said “if you have the calling to be a writer, it’s not going to go away any more than the shape of your nose will.”
In a recent newsletter about a book of poetry she NEEDED to write, author Kelly Chripczuk said she wasn’t anticipating that the book would be a big success or change lives. But she figured those things don’t matter “compared to knowing what you must do and finding within yourself the willingness, the grace, the devotion to see it through.”
This spoke deeply too me as I work on a novel that has been on my mind and heart for several years . . . one (or rather the second one!) I have decided to write simply because I must.
One writer recently lamented that if this thing she must do would just go away . . .
Ah, that would be too easy. I’ve considered that option too. Not only with each book but with writing, period. Would I feel free? Would Sudoku puzzles or Netflix binges adequately fill up all the space left in my brain?
No. I would just feel like I was walking around balancing a stack of unabridged dictionaries, overflowing tea cups, and flaming torches on my head.
Chripczuk shared this quote from writer, speaker, and activist Parker Palmer:
Vocation at its deepest level is, ‘This is something I can’t not do, for reasons I’m unable to explain to anyone else and don’t fully understand myself but that are nonetheless compelling.’
You can doubt your ability, your knowledge, and your spelling. But that doesn’t change the fact that you have been given certain talents, gifts, and passions. That you, as a created being–whether you believe that to be by a loving hand or a random act of blindness–are meant to use them.
The Small boys dropped everything when their mother called. They didn’t know if they would find steak or fishsticks on the table or if there would even be Jello-O for dessert. Those boys obeyed because of who they knew their mother to be–kind and right and loving.
When Jesus called the fishermen [I’ll stick with the fish theme], somehow they knew he was worth dropping their nets for.
When we don’t answer a call–whether to a vocation or specific task, for example–it’s often because we fear failure, and that fear becomes an excuse for not obeying.
For most writers, failure looks like never being published. I know there is a far greater reward than publication, of course. But, perhaps on some level, answering God’s call to write simply because he’s the one calling isn’t reward enough for me.
I don’t like that about myself. Instead, I want to be like the Small boys. I want to go all Colossians 3:23-24 on my writing:
23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
Today, I simply want to answer no matter the outcome–whether it’s likes or shares, comments or clicks, pizza or fishsticks–knowing the greatest reward is running home to the bell ringer.