for the artist who worries her motives are wrong

lightAs soon as I saw her name pop up on my caller ID, my stomach dropped swiftly into China. It was a little after 3 pm on the afternoon of November 4, 2009. The kids ate graham crackers, watching Clifford the Big Red Dog.

Walking across the room, I picked up the ringing phone, shaky hands, pounding heart.

“Emily! We had a wonderful talk about your book during our pub board meeting today . . . ”

Now I was in the kitchen though I don’t remember how I got there.

“We all love your proposal . . .”

Sitting, I’m not sure what to think.

“. . . Would you be willing to write two books for us?”

And there it was. Until that point, everything book-writing was playing house. Now I was being offered a real job and I was scared.

I was afraid I couldn’t do it.

I was afraid I would disappoint them once it was done.

But one of my biggest fears at the time was I was doing it for all the wrong reasons.

Do I just want to say I wrote a book? See my name on the cover? Be famous? Be admired? Win?

The truth is, my motives were mixed. Three books and four years later, they still are. Sometimes that scares me. But if I always waited to do things until my motives were clear and un-mixed, maybe I would never do anything at all.

I have to be careful not to give too much power to motivation. I spend lots of time analyzing my thoughts and actions – wanting to live on the outside in perfect congruence with my inside. This isn’t a bad thing, but it can be too idealistic. It helps me to admit my own weakness and to face those ugly places where my motives are unclear.

But facing them doesn’t mean wallowing in self-hatred. Facing them means admitting I’m a mess without Christ. Face it, and then turn away. Because I believe I’m a spirit who has a soul and lives in a body, my deepest identity is spirit where my life is joined with God. This is where my true self exists, the seat of my desire, the beloved union with my beloved Christ.

In this place, there is no mixing, no deceit, no two-faced imposter.

I’m learning to do the next right thing, mixed motives and all. I’m learning to bring my motives into the presence of Jesus and trust him to work them out, recognizing He has put a new heart within me.

In my soul – my mind, will, and emotion – I am capable of both wholeness as well as brokenness, gratitude as well as selfishness. But my motives are not the truest thing about me.

Desire speaks of something deeper, something beyond motivation. Here in the deepest part of who I am, in the seat of my personality sits Christ.

Christ, in whom all things are made.

Christ, who came first.

Christ, who holds all things together.

Christ, who lives in me.

I worry with wringing hands and furrowed brow that maybe I want glory for myself. You know, sometimes I do. It really shouldn’t surprise me.

But in the deepest part, in the most secret place, this is no longer my deepest truth. I have been given a new heart, a new Spirit alive within me. He is my hope of glory.

31 daysToday is day 23 in our series on Living Art. Click here to see all the posts in the series.

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If you’re following along with us in the book club, Chapter 2 discussion is up at Bloom.

You can watch the video here and listen to some of my own thought processes as I struggle through writing the book.