Lessons from Self-Publishing: Flexibility

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As opposed to the patience issue discussed previously, I’ve known for a while that flexibility isn’t my strong suit – physically or mentally! I don’t like it when plans change: it leaves me feeling unsettled, out of control, and often uncertain as to how to proceed. And it took a good deal of emotional energy to make the decision to change Violet’s launch date the first time.

The second was easier, since I’d already had to admit that I’d not planned well enough for interruptions to the process. That first one though? I wrestled with it for a bit before I could make myself make the call and postpone with the bookstore I’d booked for the party. Thoughts kept coming, like, It is so unprofessional to postpone. I can’t believe I didn’t allow myself more time. I can’t stand the thought of disappointing my readers. Then God sent people to encourage me (my husband and a close friend) whose words helped ease the fear building at the thought of postponing. In the end, though, I knew I had to do it; I’d rather be late with a good product than on time with a product I didn’t love. Next time, I’ll know not to announce anything until I have the physical proof in hand and know that the book will ready when it is announced.

To explore what Scripture says about the idea of being changeable, let’s take a little trip through a few different stories.

We read in the book of Jeremiah, chapter eighteen, that God sends the prophet to the potter’s house, where God will speak to him. Jeremiah goes, sees the potter with clay on his wheel, and watches as the item the potter is fashioning doesn’t work. The potter then lumps the clay together and begins again, fashioning something new. Following this, the Lord speaks to Jeremiah, explaining that He is the potter and if He wills, he can raise up nations and lower them to accomplish His purposes.

While this may seem somewhat judge-like and unmerciful of God, we must remember two things: First, that God is simultaneously merciful AND just. If He was only merciful, the Sacrifice of Christ would not have been necessary for our salvation. But He is fully merciful and fully just. Second, we must remember what His purposes are. Namely, the salvation of humankind. Throughout the Old Testament, He was moving history to the point at which our salvation would be accomplished. Once it was, He has been moving history to expand his Kingdom to include all people that would be saved. Even now, His purposes are for the salvation of humankind.

With this in mind – that is, knowing that salvation through Christ, sent by the Father and spread by the Spirit, is at the center of everything – we can confidently say that all He wills is good, that He is continually working for our good, even when it doesn’t go the way that we think it will. And what of my plans? Are they Kingdom-plans, or my own plans? If they’re Kingdom-plans, I can learn to change as God moves me to the places that He will, to spread the news of His grace. Through our lips, through our feet and hands, and most especially through His Word, active in our lives.

He reshapes us, as clay in the potter’s hand, to accomplish the work He has for us. Can a small pot hold a great deal of water? No, so He may change the shape. Can a shallow bowl pour well? No, but a pitcher can. The same lump of clay can be turned into any number of things, but only the potter knows what its purpose will be.

But only if we are malleable, if we have the flexibility to be changed.

When the children of Israel were spread far and wide, dispersed amongst the nations, God spoke to Ezekiel the prophet and said that He would gather them together again, and “And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes, and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people and I will be their God” (Ezekiel 11:19-20).

What a lovely image: a heart of stone removed – a heart that cannot grow warm for someone, that cannot sympathize or connect or love – and a heart of flesh given to replace it. When we have a heart of flesh, a heart beating with new life in Christ, our view of things changes. A delayed book launch can be opportunity to prepare more. An extensive delay on the freeway can become a chance to talk and spend time with the family. A son sold as a slave in Egypt can become the means through which God will care for people during a famine.

Remember the account of Joseph in Genesis? After all that happened, (sold by brothers, wrongly accused, imprisoned, brought by God’s power before Pharaoh to interpret dreams, then placed over everything and second only to Pharaoh in power), Joseph said to his brothers, As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today(Genesis 50:20) He could see that when things don’t go as planned or hoped, God can turn it into a thing of beauty.

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Remember, if flexibility and change is a difficult thing for you – life in Christ is all about newness. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (II Corinthians 5:17). All things are made new. And new things are ripe for change and flexibility. Have you ever observed a newborn baby? They flop all over the place! New plants, new animals, new babies – all of these will change so much in the first part of their NEW LIVES. In Christ, we have new life! Even better – new, eternal life! All new, ready and primed for growth in the One who makes us grow and change into His likeness.

Dear readers, I pray God’s grace will fill your lives to overflowing, changing all things to be new and ready for whatever He has in store for you!

(All Scripture taken from English Standard Version.)

And remember, Violet will be here soon!

(Photo by Alex Shaw of Shaw Photography.)


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