"Only what you do for Christ will last."
It's not biblical, but this concept I learned during sermons and bible studies in adulthood aligned with Scripture.
Don't be like the people who "love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others."
"Only what you do for Christ will last" served as a motivation check, an envy inhibitor and a discord disruptor. The saying might make you ask yourself, "Are you volunteering to lead that activity because God moved your heart to lead it, or because you like the public spotlight?" It could stop you from badmouthing the choir member who sings the solo you wanted to sing. It keeps your feelings from experiencing hurt and makes you continue speaking to that leader who forgets to speak your name when she thanks everyone who helped to make the church fundraiser a success. You're not looking for human recognition or earthly reward; you want to hear God say, "Well done, my good and faithful servant."
Like repentance, forgiveness, reconciliation and patience, the life applications of "only what you do for Christ will last" defied human nature, but were possible through the Holy Spirit. Lately, though, I've begun to wonder how realistic it is for anyone living in a capitalistic society to operate with the glorification of God as their main motivator when it comes to paid employment, and if it is possible, how I can do it.
I am a professional writer. I believe my writing is a gift from God. I believe God gives believers a sense of their mission or purpose and that mine is to help black women and girls discover the power and importance of their own voices by sharing my story and the histories of other black women. Through books, new and traditional media production and teaching, I hope to create in them a sense of belonging that inspires them to share their own stories and own their destinies. I write to reveal my own mysteries to myself, to resurrect the parts of me that secrets have buried and to help free others.
I want my writing to help guide readers (including ones outside of my target audience) to new revelations, to speak the unspeakable, and to heal deeply shadowed wounds by using various literary forms to connect history, spirituality, and critical analysis of the present, and to interweave these connections with autobiography. I hope to be a writer who, as Toni Cade Bambara said, "makes revolution irresistible."
My mission statement meets the standards of most how-to articles on crafting a personal or company mission statement. It combines my passions and proficiencies with a desired legacy that extends past me and my immediate family. Some might say that trying to change the world is doing God's work. Sometimes, like when I get an email or letter from someone thanking me for saying what they've been trying to articulate or for letting them know they're not alone, the mission feels right, noble even.
But man, it's tough not to get caught up in likes, retweets and page views.
It's tough because I'm a writer; a writer needs readers and in this era of Google Analytics, a writer knows when she's that tree that falls in the woods when no one is around. Additionally, a writer's name is rarely separated from her work. So if no one is reading her work, no one knows her name, and if no one knows her name, she doesn't become the go-to person -- the writer that editors of various media outlets call for more work. And if she has no work, neither bill payment nor the mission can advance.
I remind myself sometimes that I'm not supposed to worry about any of this. Seek ye first … I should focus on making my craft excellent. Be faithful over few things. … Only when I stop desiring more readers will I get more readers. … but their hearts are far from me. If I center myself, make my own shameless self-promotion my chief motivation, I'll end up with nothing.
These Scriptures used to give me life and peace. I blame my doubt about other biblical non-negotiables and consistent disappointments in things I thought God promised me for taking that away. But the peace was nice.
So I'm trying to forget the popularity contests I've never won, even as they transform themselves into digital stats I can check daily. I'm trying to remember that unknown people have the privilege of taking risks, auditioning new forms and failing miserably without anyone noticing. And I'm trying to be as hopeful as I was not so many years ago, when I rested in the belief that God brings every good work to completion.
I'm trying. But if you like this, share it for me, please.
[Mariam Williams is a Kentucky writer living in Philadelphia and pursuing MFA in creative writing at Rutgers University-Camden. She is a contributor to the anthology Faithfully Feminist and blogs at RedboneAfropuff.com. Follow her on Twitter: @missmariamw.]
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