For the past few years I’ve had anything but a normal life. In many ways that’s a wonderful thing. After all, almost every single one of the influential people in the world that God has used for His glory had very difficult and abnormal lives. And while I’ve greatly enjoyed the busyness and excitement and the fact that I never get bored because there’s always something to do, some days there is way too much to do and I feel overwhelmed, stressed, and anxious. A couple of weeks ago I had one of those days. This is what happened:
My grandparents had just moved from New Jersey down to an apartment in North Carolina ten minutes from our home. My dad and I had been there until about midnight helping them get settled in. I had to teach piano early the next morning and I was dreading the fact that I was going to get about six hours of sleep before the next day rolled around. I got up as late as possible and was able to get downstairs to the basement where I teach, with food in my stomach, by 8:45am. I taught four students back to back, and they behaved well and worked hard. I was encouraged and my spirits were lifted.
At about 11:15 I sat down at the computer to work on content for my website and write several long emails regarding my story or suggestions for youth projects at church. About forty-five minutes later I was summoned upstairs to spend some time with my little six-year-old brother. I decided to tackle organizing the kids’ bathroom. Now, I try to be neat and organized. But my stuff usually ends up what I like to call “an organized mess.” At this point, our bathroom wasn’t organized at all. It was just a mess. But, you know how organizing projects always take longer than you planned? By the time I had finished with lunch and cleaning the bathroom, it was 2pm. I suddenly realized the predicament I was in.
I was supposed to plant a ton of plants and seeds in the garden in just two hours. I had been hoping to have at least three. And then my publisher called with the request to do a one-hour marketing meeting. I felt overwhelmed and upset. I had just told my mom that I couldn’t pick up my fifteen-year-old brother from work because I needed to work in the garden. But now I didn’t even have time to plant seeds and I needed to be in a meeting at 3pm and then have from 4pm-5pm to get a shower and look presentable for the cast party I was attending for my acting class that night, finish making food to bring to the cast party, and pack clothes and cosmetics for my overnight stay at my grandparent’s new apartment.
Frantically I dashed around the house and got my six-year-old brother Josh to finish cleaning the bathroom and then come help me in the garden. Josh had helped me last year in the garden, but when I started to dish out instructions he just stared and me and didn’t seem to comprehend. He kept asking question after question and didn’t know where stuff was or what to do. As we finally started digging trenches, Josh kept messing things up. First, we couldn’t find our second little trowel and I was sure he had misplaced it (of course, it ended up being me that misplaced it). Then he was throwing the dirt out of the raised bed. Finally, when I had just laid out the tape measure for a second time, Josh accidentally knocked it over and the tape retracted. I had already been frustrated and upset, but now I was bordering on angry. And for those of you who know me, I rarely get truly angry. I can only think of one or two times in my life when I’ve been really, truly angry. This was the kind of angry that made me want to yell at Josh and cry and get upset at how horribly my day was going. But as I opened my mouth to yell at my poor little brother, a thought suddenly struck me. I instantly knew it was from God. This is what I thought.
“What would your main character, Jarah, do in this situation?”
I froze, thoughts speeding through my mind at one hundred miles per hour. I had never thought about learning anything from my characters. After all, I had created my characters! They were supposed to be learning from me, right? But this is what I suddenly realized.
First, Jarah, and probably all of the other Hebrew slave girls, had many days that were far worse than mine. I had never been beaten or abused or starved. In my story, Jarah has a very unloving mother and older sister. She is often bossed around and things don’t usually go her way - just like what was happening to me today. As I was thinking about it, when Jarah gets angry, she doesn’t yell at her siblings. She used to, but God had done a work in her heart. Instead of erupting into horrible, hateful speech, my little twelve-year-old character Jarah would stop, take a deep breath, and say a short prayer to God before responding. I knew that was what I needed to do.
Standing out in the garden, covered with dirt and feeling my chest constrict from stress and frustration, I stopped. I shut my mouth. I took a long, deep breath and prayed, “God, please help me not to be angry.” I looked down at my adorable, sweet, innocent little brother and felt the anger start to melt. Taking another deep breath I said to Josh, “Ok Josh. We’re going to stop now. We’re going to do something else.” We both agreed that we were just going to plant the broccoli plants instead of plant tons of little seeds. Even though it took me a few minutes to calm down, this job was a lot easier and Josh actually helped me. Neither of us were upset any more. And we got the little baby broccolis planted and watered just in the nick of time. My alarm for my meeting with the publisher went off just as I was turning off the hose.
I met with my publisher. I got all my stuff packed up for the evening (well… almost all of my stuff…). I had time to get a shower and look presentable and I finished dinner. And I left right on time to go pick up my sweet friend Tori and take her to the cast party.
On the way to Tori’s house, I was thinking about my day. Yeah, my day hadn’t been the best. But I thought of two things. First, I as a twenty-year-old author had just learned something from the twelve-year-old character that I had created. Wow. If that’s not humbling, I don’t know what is. Doesn’t God have an amazing sense of humor? But it’s so cool looking back at it and realizing that this book has really been such a blessing to me. I’m truly a better person because of writing it and delving deep into God’s word and learning what He wanted to teach me. I can just hope and pray that this book will have the same impact on many other young people who read it.
Second, my characters have some pretty rough days. Just wait until you read chapter six! :-) But none of what they went through, or what I’ve gone through, can compare to what Jesus went through. He died on the cross, a horrible, torturing, painful, humiliating death. And he died for us. He died to take away our sin and our anger and our pride. It all rested on His shoulders that day when He cried out, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?” Jesus went through the worst possible thing - death and separation from God - for every single one of us. Why? Because He loves us that much. As Jesus died His last words were, “It is finished.” His work here on earth was done. He took away all of our sin. And then He came back to life to give us a hope and a future, to tell us to spread His message to the entire world! He’s alive! He’s real! And He wants you to come to Him and get to know Him. He wants to be your best friend. And then He wants you to tell everyone else that He wants to be their best friend, too.
So, I just wanted to encourage you all that if you’ve had a rough day, or a rough week, or a rough year, just remember to stop and pray. And remember that Jesus went through things much worse than we could ever imagine, and He wants to help us through the hard times now. When my book comes out and you read it, I hope it will encourage you all to want a personal relationship with Jesus and that you will be inspired to tell everyone about Him. That is my prayer and my hope.