Recently I was writing back and forth with a friend. They asked about the different kinds of writing I do and what all that was about and this is essentially what I told them:
[Right now it's 1862 in Virginia - I got another contract for yet another book, this one about Mennonites, Amish, pacificism, the American Civil War & why some Amish and Mennonites chose to bear arms to fight against slavery. You know how it works? I go to NYC or TO and I say, "Hey, I have an idea for a novel where an Amish boy dreams about flying, even has a natural gift for it, but his Amish community aren't sure such a gifting can be from God" - and NYC and TO say, "No, thanks." So I go to Ohio and Michigan and Oregon and Florida and publishers there say, "Yes, we love it." But then I go to those same publishers in Ohio and Michigan and Oregon and Florida and I say, "Listen, I have another idea for a novel - two sisters, one Catholic, one Communist - they love each other but they hate each other - Stalin is in the mix and Hitler and Berlin and Moscow and Kyiv - There's romance, there's war, there's God" - "No, thanks," they tell me. So I go to NYC and TO with the same idea and to this idea they say, "Yes!" So now I've figured out I want to tell all kinds of stories and I just have to wander from publisher to publisher to find who will publish which stories and that's all I care about. Every thing's a genre in its own way. So I write in all the genres in order to say what I'd like to say.]
It occurs to me the same thing happens with all of us when we share our stories, testimonies, messages or meditations with the people in the different worlds we move about in. If we talk to teens, we gear our words to a teenage way of looking at the world so they'll understand what we're saying better. If we talk to seniors, we make sure our words are understood within their frame of reference. The same goes if you are talking to a college crowd, a church group, people at work, or ladies in your neighborhood. We say what we want to say or feel we need to say but we put it in words we think each group will best understand. It's no different with my writing. I'm just going from place to place and telling my stories in ways different groups will best understand them. And one publisher will publish one approach, another will publish an alternative approach.
God talks to us this way too. Sometimes a breeze, sometimes a thunderclap. Sometimes challenging us to think deeply, other times challenging us scarcely to think things through at all. Sometimes Psalm 23, sometimes Psalm 88. Sometimes the gospel of John hits home, sometimes Mark finds us where we live. Sometimes he meets us in church, sometimes in the desert, sometimes in a shopping mall. God comes at us in a thousand different ways with his words of comfort, encouragement and discipline. We have to learn to realize when it's him because, really, he doesn't talk to us exactly the same way each and every time.
Nor are we restricted to only praying to God in a certain way, or worshiping in a certain way, or reading a certain translation of the Bible or reading it in a certain way at a certain time of day. We do not have to come to God only when we're upbeat (churches on Sunday mornings have to take this seriously and stop acting as if everyone is on a spiritual high). Nor do we only have to have real talks with him when we're most sad, discouraged, depressed or frightened. We can come to him with childlike words or deeply penetrating thoughts or in hilarity or in struggle. Some people still think it's irreverent to come to God when you feel frustrated or angry or upset. Not so. As God comes to us in many ways and we approach others in many ways so we have freedom to speak with God in many ways. We see this in the Bible again and again from different people and different writers - they come in all kinds of moods, all the moods under the rainbow. The Psalms alone are a whole display of the entire gamut human emotions can run and all are felt and expressed in his presence.
Tolkien said not all who wander are lost. As far as going from place to place, person to person, and God moment to God moment to speak the truth that is in your heart, this is very true. We are always looking for the right words, the right prayers, the right ways and often feeling that we are failing. Yet to do this honest wandering is enough. Become a holy wanderer and meet God in a million ways and a million places. Become a holy wanderer and tell your stories in a million places too. Be open to where God wishes to take you. Do not presume to restrict the Holy Spirit. With the words of God in your soul let him show you new paths in Christ, new vistas, new faces. You will be amazed at how your life changes and what you can hear clearly and speak clearly.
Live the diversity that is plain to see not only in God's Creation but in God's Book and, by so doing, live again.