Heal Thy Self

By: Dennis Bates

The phrase “Physician, heal thyself,” is so widely used that sometimes we forget that it is recorded in Luke 4:23 as a proverb quoted by Jesus. Loosely interpreted, it means get your own house in order before you tell others how to live.

It applies to writers too.

When I started writing novels three years ago I was fulfilling a lifelong dream. My undergraduate degree was in journalism. I wrote for more than four years on a midsized newspaper and for a news service before I got sucked into the black hole of “having a career.” I always loved writing and have finally gone back to it.

Fortunately, now I don’t have to sustain myself from my earnings. To put it succinctly, they range from meager to nonexistent. Writing professionally is a tough gig, and like any other profession, there are tradeoffs. If you want to make money, you have to be willing to write what agents and editors can sell.

Some writers can do that better than others. I’m one of the others. I have always said that I want to write what I feel I am led to write, the way I am led to write it. That’s one of the reasons I self publish. Most non writers  don’t realize that writing the great American novel is less than half the job. You have to market yourself and your stories, first to agents, then to publishers, then to editors and finally to the public.

And you have to be willing to wait your turn and be patient. I’ve never been good at that. Even if you sell your book to a publisher, it may be a year or more until it is actually published. Then if the bookstores don’t get the buzz going, all your work goes for naught. Frankly it is not a job that lends itself well to those of us who took it up at a more mature age. Read that an old age.

But none of that should matter if we are doing this for God and His purposes, right? Of course that’s right, but that doesn’t make it easy to accept all the time. Nor does it make it easy to put it into practice. Down deep, whether we admit it or not, doing what God wants us to do would be even better if it were wildly acclaimed by the masses. I want the Psalm Sunday masses cheering for me; I just don’t want the next weekend when those same people screamed “Crucify him!”

It doesn’t work like that.

My second book, “Sharon’s Story,” hasn’t taken off like I wanted it too. Of course, I haven’t marketed it as I should have, but that’s another essay. Yet, I have always believed in that story and always felt God had a purpose for it. I just wanted His purpose to land it on a best seller list somewhere.

I guess that wasn’t what He had in mind, at least not yet. Still, last week my former pastor called me and asked me if he could buy ten books from me for a church group to use. I was thrilled because the purchase inluded an invitation to me to meet with the group and discuss my book. That is exactly the kind of thing I enjoy doing the most.

As an aside, my wife likes that kind of thing too because it means she doesn’t have to listen to me drone on for hours about my stories or writing in general. She likes to talk about my stories but not as endlessly as I do.

Yesterday my former pastor called and said he needed more books. He said the first ten were gone in an instant and he could use ten more. He is coming to get them in a few minutes. To be sure,  twenty books in less than a week won’t get me on the best seller list, but it convinces me that God does have a plan. His plan. After all, that’s what I signed up for.

I need to believe that, not just talk about it. What is God’s plan for you? Do you believe in it, because He does.


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