I’m still in a season of transition and directional change over here. I recently decided, after a 10-year stint as a monthly columnist with my local paper, to say farewell. I thought I’d share my final newspaper column with you (I’ll still be blogging and publishing my monthly newsletter though!).
Ten years ago I was told by an expert that if I hoped to publish a book, I would first need to build a platform. I should have my own radio show or a newspaper column, plus a website and a social media presence, he advised. I needed to demonstrate to prospective publishers that I had an audience who would buy my book.
With that goal in mind, I suggested the idea of a column about “faith in the everyday” to a features editor at the Journal Star. A few days after I emailed her, I was flabbergasted and thrilled to receive a “yes” to my pitch.
Ten years and 117 columns later, I find myself on the cusp of a new season. Three months ago I announced on my blog that I am stepping away from book writing. After a long period of discernment, I finally acknowledged that the culture of publishing — with its relentless drive toward increasingly larger audiences, more self-promotion and bigger sales — is not a place I want to be anymore. After many seasons of planting and harvesting, I am stepping into a period of pruning and uprooting.
The message we hear again and again from our society is that more is always better. When we cut back at all, it’s often only so we can increase our capacity to produce more. We scrimp on sleep. We leave vacation days unused at the end of the year. We skip regular exercise and cut corners on nutrition. We even neglect our closest relationships. All so we can work more, earn more, succeed more and do more.
I’ve always equated “fruitfulness” with work. I believed that a person was “fruitful” only if he or she produced something — especially something tangible. Jesus, on the other hand, offers a different definition of fruitfulness. “As you live in union with me as your source, fruitfulness will stream from within you,” he told his disciples. (John 15:5)
Like a tender cultivar grafted onto a mature tree, we flourish when we graft ourselves to God. In abiding in his love, a new kind of fruitfulness flows out from us and into the world – a counter-cultural kind of fruit that is less the product of doing, producing, pushing and striving, and more the result of simply abiding in God.
Five years ago if you had asked me what I thought I would be doing today, I would have answered without hesitation: writing books, magazine articles, blog posts and this monthly newspaper column. Pushing to grow my platform, striving to grow my audience. I couldn’t imagine a time when I wouldn’t be producing more books, more articles and more words. I couldn’t imagine a time in which I wouldn’t be striving to be more productive and more successful.
Today if you ask me the same question, my answer is markedly different. The truth is, I have no idea what I will be “doing” in five years. This isn’t to say I won’t have a job – I certainly hope I will – but simply that my lifelong focus on doing and producing is shifting toward being and abiding.
Today I rest in quiet confidence, knowing that while it may not reflect our culture’s standards of “fruitfulness,” whatever is born of this new season of pruning and uprooting will indeed be fruitful in God.