Please welcome this weeks guest Linda Samaritoni for The Journey. She answers the question: How have you seen God work in your writing journey?
1977. That was the year Living Water rushed over me like a dam break; its torrent carried off the debris of my sins and deposited a new, pure me in the calm, clear pool of Christ’s love. That was the year I consciously began my journey with Jesus.
Having attended church all my life, worship took on new meaning. Instead of walking out of the service as the self-satisfied Pharisee, I plied the Lord with questions. “How should I serve You? How do I witness to others? I’m not a social butterfly. Going up to strangers and sharing my love for You like those Jesus People is not something I’m comfortable with.”
The church told me to get out of my comfort zone and witness about Jesus everywhere I went. I don’t think Jesus ever put it like that. For years, I alienated friends and family with phrases like, “You should get saved,” or “Go to church and open yourself to God.” I was a failure as a witness.
On occasion, a great discussion would develop on topics of faith. Those conversations were energizing; people listened to each other. I wondered: what’s the difference between those forced, barren monologues and lively, uplifting conversations?
As a teacher in a Christian school, it was natural to witness to my students within the context of our Bible lesson, and as I grew in maturity of faith, I could integrate the wonder of God into every subject. Yet, frustrations continued. I did a good job of reinforcing the Christian family’s values, but I wasn’t reaching the world for Christ.
While my sons were small and I stayed home with them, I began to occupy my free time with writing. Church magazines and Christian publications for kids printed several of my articles. God used those modest successes to encourage my desire to write, but I still wasn’t witnessing to anyone outside the church. It’s possible that God used those articles and publications to reach lost souls, but I still thought I had failed my Lord.
I returned to full time teaching until my boys graduated from college. Anyone who knows a teacher’s schedule and workload outside of school knows why I did not continue to write. I admire those hardy souls who can do both. At my school, the administration expected you to pray about God’s will for the next year before you signed a contract. I loved my job, but I obediently prayed every February and always sensed a go ahead in my spirit. In 2004, when I asked Him about ’05, He said, “One more year.” The words were so clear that I thought He spoke out loud! During that final year, events in my life made it clear that “One more year” was not my imagination.
Life was about to change drastically. God used that time of sabbatical followed by part time teaching to prepare me for a whole new lifestyle. In the last five years, I have been broken and poured out before Him. Once the initial agony subsided into a constant ache, He gave me the desire to write again. This time, I had the opportunity to write a novel. I’d always dreamed of writing an entire book, but dreams are not reality. I’d never written more than 2500 words for publication.
National Novel Writing Month (Nanowrimo) proved that I could write 50,000 words in a month. I had a children’s book in my hands, but I had no idea if it was any good. God led me to a critique group in my city, an eclectic mix of personalities who wrote sci-fi, horror, fantasy, and action-adventure. They terrified me. Would they even read a children’s book promoting Christian faith? Yes, they would, and they were surprisingly kind in their criticisms.
Learning to refine my writing style has been instructive. I thank God for His provision, but He has revealed a greater gift. Writing gives voice to my faith. My stories give Him the glory! He has shown me how I can be His witness, and I’m not uncomfortable at all!
The individuals in my critique group, who range from apathetic to hostile toward God and the Church, read of His goodness and evaluate once again why they came to their anti-God conclusions. Have I brought anyone to Christ? Not yet, but that isn’t what witnessing is all about. To witness is to share what you believe, what you have seen; it is not to pressure someone into believing. Those who listen to your testimony have the opportunity to learn of another’s experience.
As a teacher, it is so easy to witness to students of my experiences within a Christian school setting. As an author, I create experiences for my characters that point to Jesus as the Way, the Truth, and the Life. What a thrill! If the group objects that some event could never happen, I share about a similar event that happened in real life.
Some of the guys call me “Sunshine.” They see the Light in me. I am a witness!
Linda Samaritoni lives near Indianapolis with her husband and her big baby, Brutus the Rottweiler. Linda teaches two days a week at a private Lutheran school. Since she is technology-challenged and expends a lot of energy climbing the steep learning curve of writing in the 21st century, Linda limits postings on her own blog to once a month at www.my2ndnature.wordpress.com.