I’VE NEVER REALLY MET GOD.
Not to shake his hand, look him in the eye, or even catch a glimpse of his glory gliding by while I hide in the “cleft of the rock” (Exodus 33:22).
Still, it seems to me he somehow manages to get ideas into my head.
I’ve been thinking lately about two of the biggest decisions I made in my life – and how I came to make them.
- Leaving the newspaper business for seminary and Christian journalism
- Leaving my editorial job with a denomination for a career as a freelance writer
Both decisions seemed doggone risky at the time, if not stupid.
But looking back on them now, I’m coming off like a genius.
Leaving the newspaper
The newspaper business was a solid game back when I graduated with my degree in news journalism. A couple of newspaper guys had actually managed to get the president canned. Goodbye Richard Nixon.
But look at newspapers today.
When I walk Buddy the Dog in the morning, I’ll cover a few blocks. But in that stretch I’ll see just a few newspapers thrown on the driveways.
Newspapers are pulling back, cutting staff to bare bones, and struggling to adapt to the new media culture.
Leaving the church HQ
After seminary, I worked as an editor at a denominational headquarters for about a dozen years.
The first person at work that I told I was leaving was a good friend and colleague of mine. He worked out of the office next to me. He was my boss and my mentor.
He gently tried to convince me to stay. He told me this was a secure job, and he reminded me that the headquarters and publishing house employees of our denomination had weathered the Great Depression.
A few months ago I started getting emails from people in creative departments at that denominational headquarters. There was a massive layoff of editors and designers.
Next came the news, a few weeks ago, that they were going to close their publishing house by the end of this year.
A lot of people are losing their jobs – I could have been among them.
Again, I’m coming off like a genius.
But here’s the thing. I didn’t much use my head in making either of those big decisions.
I used my heart, I think.
I don’t know how else to describe it.
In the case of leaving the newspaper business, I simply saw how crappy my denominational publications were. And in my arrogance I thought I could help them turn the tide by giving them access to someone who has been to journalism school.
Could it be that God actually used my arrogance to get me started down this trail?
For the record, execs in the denominational headquarters did not seem the least impressed with my bachelor’s degree in journalism and my experience as a news journalist. This was an organization run by preachers. They preferred their publications to be edited by preachers – to keep the theology safe. It took me a while to progress from editorial assistant to editor.
When it came time to launch my freelance career, again it was all about some kind of an odd, uncomfortable, internal feeling.
I had taken my publications as far as the budgets and vision of the headquarters executives would allow me. I wanted to go further. How about color in the magazine, guys?
I was feeling trapped. Stuck in a rut.
I knew it was time to go, but I couldn’t figure out where to go.
Back to the newspaper? I considered it. Even interviewed for a job.
Book editor with a major Christian publishing house? I got offered a job.
Christian magazine editing? I got offered a job there, too.
Nothing excited me.
Nothing but the thought of trying my wings as a freelance writer.
When I thought about that, I got the feeling of a butterfly breaking out of the cocoon.
Flying anywhere I wanted.
So I did it.
I tried several different kinds of writing. I wrote for national secular magazines. I wrote for Christian magazines. I helped the Mayo Clinic right a bunch of books on health topics. I wrote articles for news and medical websites. I helped Reader’s Digest Books write several books about the Bible – loved it.
Then I wrote my first book: How to Get Into the Bible. It became a bestseller. I would’ve gotten a lot of money if I had had an agent.
I got an agent after that.
Note to freelance writers: if an editor offers you an exploitive deal while using Christian words like “stewardship,” as in being a good steward of the company’s funds, find an agent – or another editor.
I am not a genius.
I’m a follower.
Show me the right path, O Lord;
point out the road for me to follow.
Lead me by your truth and teach me,
for you are the God who saves me.
All day long I put my hope in you.
I don’t know how God does it – how he gets me headed down the path he wants me to take. The decisions I’ve made sometimes seemed, at the time, irrational, boneheaded, and arrogant.
I wonder if God uses all means necessary to get us on the path and keep us on the path when the desire of our heart is to be there, spending our life in his company.
New video about Jesus
On Monday I’ll release a new four-minute video called Jesus, Roman MD.