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The Affirmation of the Tribe, or Following God?

Yesterday, I was sent two things in connection with my book, “Making Crosses: A Creative Connection to God.” One, a heartfelt “Thank you!” for writing a book that spoke directly to a reader who’d been twirling around the cross for a while, wondering why it called to her. The other was a check. A big check.

Which meant more to me?

Easy, you say: the acknowledgment that your book had a spiritual impact on another soul slogging alongside you on the winding path towards God.

Pardon me, but if it were so easy, I wouldn’t be asking the question.

My mouth dropped open when I saw the check. The payment was from Paraclete Press, the publisher, for royalties earned by the book, something I get from time to time, but not in this quantity.

When I received the email from the reader, I savored it. I re-read it. I responded to it. I read it out loud to my husband. I copied it and put it in my cross scrapbook.

The check I deposited.

Here is my problem: it is so hard for me not to measure success by the money that something attracts. Money, after all, is our currency of appreciation: the more I like something, the more money I’m willing to give you for it. So, for the book to earn lots of money (okay, “lots” in my universe, which is probably peanuts in your universe) means it was liked a lot. Community affirmation, if you will. Or physical units I can stack up and eyeball, musing to myself: maybe you aren’t so worthless as a writer after all.

The email from the reader? All that means is that I am a follower of God.

I have a funky little essay coming out soon in the literary journal, Hotel Amerika. They aren’t paying me a dime . . . I don’t think. And who remembers whether Barrelhouse paid me anything? Yet, it is one of my favorite publications. So, it isn’t even about money. It’s about acceptance, admiration, belonging and achievement. Even if you find your readership, your “tribe,” you still have to decide: which means more to you? The affirmation of the tribe, or following God?

I know what the answer’s SUPPOSED to be. So as I undertake a new writing venture, let me plant my foot in that direction, keeping my eyes searching forward, arms out for balance, walking the highwire toward God.

here’s to creative synthesis . . .

Comments (2)

  • I echo that, Ellen. Last month, I also a big check, the biggest yet, and I heard a clunk when my jaw dropped. My wife couldn’t believe that so many bought the book her husband wrote! Amen to all these. It says we are reaching folks who are willing to open their hearts to receive the Holy. Amen, sister… and thank you, Paraclete, and your Press.

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