My editor emailed me recently. He had a great opportunity that he’d love for me to consider, he said. I was excited when I read his email, and when I clicked on the link he included for details, my pulse quickened. It looked good, this opportunity. Really good.
Without getting into all the nitty gritty, the opportunity had to do with book marketing, strategy and branding. The expert was looking for a handful of candidates with whom to beta-test a new service. For free.
Scrolling further, I saw that this particular marketer had worked with a number of very successful Christian authors – people I respect and whose books I regularly read and have sitting here right on my shelves. It all looked too good to be true.
And in fact, it was too good to true. For me anyway.
You see, I noticed something as I was reading through the website. Along with my quickening pulse, I felt a sinking sensation begin to gnaw deep in my gut. It was what I refer to as The Pit. I wasn’t sure exactly why The Pit had yawned open in the bottom of my stomach, but I knew enough to pay attention to it.
I clicked off the site. I didn’t do anything else that day. I didn’t email my editor. I didn’t return again to the website, or re-read my editor’s email or the marketer’s pitch. I simply put it all aside for 24 hours. I let it rest.
The next morning I started from scratch. I re-read my editor’s kind and generous email. I re-read the marketer’s pitch. I returned to the website and re-read the content. I looked closely at the list of best-selling author clients. I read every single word, slowly and carefully.
And I felt it again: the undeniable presence of The Pit in the bottom of my gut.
The Pit was telling me No.
I’ve come to think of The Pit as the way the Holy Spirit most often makes his presence known to me. Maybe you get sweet, gentle nudges from your Holy Spirit. Mine punches me hard in the gut. I think He knows what it’s going to take to get through to me.
I didn’t want to say no to this invitation for a whole variety of reasons. First, I didn’t want to disappoint my editor, who had so graciously selected me to benefit from this opportunity. I also didn’t want him to think I am a big fat slacker. This is the editor of my next book, after all, the one that releases in just a few short months. The last thing I wanted him to think was that I am unwilling to work hard to help make that book be as successful as it can be.
I also didn’t want to say no because saying no feels like quitting to me. It feels like giving up. It feels lame and lazy and timid and weak. Saying no is antithetical to my Type A, people-pleaser, “Make It Happen” personality. I never say no.
And finally, and this was the biggest hurdle, I didn’t want to say no because I was afraid of missing out. Because the truth is, I do want to be successful. I do want to be known. And in the back of my mind, I couldn’t help but wonder “What if?”
What if this is IT? What if this is The Thing – the thing that makes the difference, the thing I’ve been waiting for, the tipping point, the cracked open door? The thing that propels me from an unknown, barely-making-a-part-time-living writer to A Successful Author.
This past summer has been transformational for me. I’ve had a lot of time to think in a very deep way about who I am. I’ve glimpsed a truer identity for myself than the one I have fashioned for the last 46 years. I’ve felt my soul come alive in a way I have never before experienced. And I believe it’s because I have glimpsed who God is, who I am in relation to him, and who he has created me to be.
My deepest desire is to hold on to this new self, this new identity, that’s been revealed. And that desire has made me more aware than ever of dangerous ground, of the pitfalls that could trip me up and send me hurtling down the path of soul- and self-destruction.
The truth is, I had to say no because I know, once I go down that road, I won’t be able to stop my desire for success, my pursuit of more, from taking hold.
I don’t have the inner fortitude to resist the temptation. Once I give in, the drive simply takes over. Because I am driven to achieve, and because (this is hard to admit) I have so often defined my self-worth based on my achievement and success (or lack thereof), it doesn’t take much for me to fall back into my old ways of more, more, more; push, push, push; compare, compare, compare; hustle, hustle, hustle. I can go headlong into the hungry pursuit of “the next big thing” quicker than you can blink.
And I know, from a lifetime of experience, that when I do that, I lose some of my soul in the process. I lose some of my whole self.
The beautiful, pure truth I discovered this summer is simply too precious to lose. And so I said no to a great, possibly career-enhancing opportunity. I said no to the “What if?” I said no to what might have been The Thing.
I said no to save my soul.