The other night I attended a webinar for writers. The question was posited: How big does your audience need to be to make your writing worthwhile?
Anyone would be happy to be read by millions, but what about thousands? Hundreds? What about ten?
A friend joked that it felt like Abraham bargaining with God over Sodom.
I responded with “If even one…” (The voice in my head was overdramatic and funny.) But there was some pushback:
Is one really enough? Who is that one person?
Hold that thought.
Last night we watched the last installment of Tim Keller’s Questioning Christianity livestream. The series has been looking at the existential side of Christianity and how it compares with secularism (and other religions) as a worldview. Keller has been building a case that Christianity better fits our human experience and intuitions, that it is more internally consistent, and that it has better resources to meet our deepest longings and needs than anything else.
One of the many ideas that have really stuck with me from the series is that in order to be content, the modern secular person must not look too long and hard at his own beliefs, because they don’t hold up in the face of suffering and death. When hard times hit, he must borrow from other belief systems in order to cope. However, for a Christian, the exact opposite is true: the longer and harder we look at our faith, the more we find truth–and the hope that is grounded firmly in it.
This corresponds with my own reality. When I am too busy or too distracted to keep God at the forefront of my thoughts, I become insecure, hungry for the approval of other people, and doubtful of my own worth. However, when I am truly abiding in Christ–truly resting in the ways He has reconciled me to God–I feel secure, I find contentment, and I have a joyful sense of purpose.
Keller calls it “clean energy”: instead of serving out of fear and anxiety in hopes of earning a reward (ultimately a selfish motivation), we can serve freely out of love and gratitude because our debt has been paid and our disease has been–and is being–healed.
So back to the writing.
Yes, of course there are times when I feel my own self-aggrandizement or insecurities (both of which stem from pride), but they always, invariably drive me back to my need for Christ. To the degree that I can abide in the truth of His love for me, that is the degree to which I am content.
I find contentment because I now have nothing to prove–and nothing to lose. If God has put in me this burning desire to write, and if He’s given me stories to tell, then it is mere stewardship to do the very best I can with what is set before me.
Ultimately, He is my audience of One, as cliché as that sounds. When I look long and hard at my faith, I know that I will give an account of every word:
I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.Matthew 12:36-37
If I am to faithfully steward any gift God has given me, I have to trust that He will make the best use of that in His kingdom. Sure, I’d be thrilled to have a wide audience and help point large numbers of people toward the Jesus I know, but I’m not guaranteed success by earthly standards. It may be that what I write connects with only one person, but if that’s how God chooses to use me, I must content myself with that. And I do content myself with that–most of the time.
In the kingdom of God, worth is measured by a different standard. Only in eternity will we know the full weight of an encouraging word, a helping hand, and a cup of cold water.
It may be that, in the end, all my painstaking effort is for the benefit of just one person. It may be. Even so, I will put all I have into it to make it the best I can. It’s the very least I can do after all that Christ has done for me.
And if I end up with a larger audience? Well, we’ll just call that grace.