By Anthony Casperson
“What am I trying to do here, really?” I asked myself, while the cursor blinked on the screen. Thousands of words scrolled by. A scene in the novel I’ve been trying to write this summer.
Writing the story has been difficult for me because I find fiction easier to write when I’m not at home. And obvious reasons probably tell you why I have to be home to write at this time, rather than out in a coffee shop or at a restaurant.
But this scene in particular had been driving me crazy. Just over 2000 words written for two weeks worth of work. (For those who aren’t writers, I’ve been able to hit over that many words in a day when I’ve had the right setting.) And this was the second time I’d tried to rework the scene.
At first, I realized it was only dialogue. An ill-disguised info dump. There was no action. No rising tension. No conflict. In a word: boring.
So, I tried to add something dramatic. Something that would set the two characters in the scene at odds. However, I realized that this not only required the characters to act outside of their personalities, but it also left a dissonance in the scene after the action slowed and it returned to the dialogue.
I sighed, looking at those words scroll by, and had to ask what the purpose of the scene was. Why had I written it in the first place? The answer was that I wanted to show a limitation in the main character’s abilities. It was only meant to be a small thing. A tiny scene before the real purpose of the chapter.
But it had grown to monstrous proportions a long time ago. And showed no signs of reversing its course.
As much as it hurt, I realized the scene had to go. I had to scrap weeks of work because it had never been the best way to accomplish my desire. (That’s not to say I won’t move the introduced character and a few of the details to others parts of the novel. It’s only the scene I have to scrap.)
It felt terrible to “waste” the time and effort I’d expended to reach this point. How much more time will I have to spend trying a new way? Will that work out any better? Or will I waste even more of my precious time on another failure? The ever-dwindling time before I have to go back to the job that actually pays me.
The truth is, I don’t know how it’ll work out. I have a new idea, but haven’t implemented it fully yet. I decided to write this blog first because this pain of having to scrap something costly made me think of how we followers of Jesus sometimes have to throw out unhelpful, but costly things.
Maybe, we have a relationship with a person, whether familial, friendly, or romantic. But that person calls us to go places that tempt us to old, sinful habits. Or they require so much attention that any devotion to God is left to the wayside.
There’s a part of us that thinks we need this relationship. Maybe we can lead them to Jesus. But we realize that our original goals of being around this person won’t come to fruition. And unfortunately, though it will pain us deeply, the realization comes to us that we need to leave the relationship.
Or possibly, there’s a hobby we love. It’s been a part of our lives for decades. But the time commitment required keeps us from being in communion with our fellow followers of Jesus. Or we realize that the money we spend on it could be better applied to help out our brothers and sisters in Jesus.
Thousands of dollars and hours down the drain. Maybe we can get back to it in a few months. Or we can find people who have our interests and our timetable. But we come to realize that our lives have changed after learning more about God and his will for our lives. And that painful moment has to come where we need to leave the hobby behind.
For those who have recently come to follow Jesus, there’s the possibility that you have a habit from your life before coming to him that needs to be left behind. You still have the paraphernalia involved in the habit. Things you slowly collected over years of building the customs.
But as you’ve come to Jesus you realize that such things are problematic to life with him. Maybe it’s sinful. It could even be something that’s a stumbling block for a person. And you have to come to that painful moment of scrapping the costly accouterments to that habit you need to leave behind.
No matter what it is we followers of Jesus discover that needs to be scrapped, it can be painful to feel the “waste” involved. Money, time, investment. All lost in the briefest of seconds because, though costly, it led to nothing of true value.
And what about the replacement? Will it be better? Will we come to realize that it was a waste as well? We don’t know. But what I do know is that God has shown himself to bless those who scrap costly things so that they can grow in relationship with him. A better relationship with the Creator of the universe is never wasted.
One quick biblical showcasing of this. We see in Acts 19 that Paul had been in Ephesus, proclaiming the truth of God to the highly spiritual, but not godly, people of the city. He performed such wondrous works among them that some thought they could use the “magic words” of Paul to accomplish the same thing.
But when a group of them were nearly beaten to death by a demon-possessed man, word traveled through the city of how the power of God outperformed the sorcery and witchcraft of the spiritual people. There was a power with this God that couldn’t be replicated by any other means. And many among these people came to understand the power of Jesus in their lives.
In their fervor to serve God alone, they brought out all of their magical books and paraphernalia, tossing them into piles. And they burned them. Scrapped to the highest degree.
Someone among the crowd counted how much this whole ordeal “wasted.” And the total came up to fifty thousand silver pieces. Depending on the exact silver coin to which they were referring (because there are a couple of options) it could be somewhere between 5-6 million dollars, or even up to 1-2 billion dollars.
Even taking that “smaller” amount, the scrapping of those books would be considered a waste to everyone but God. Acts 19:20, the very next verse after that recorded monetary waste, shows God’s value of the act. It says that God continued to increase and prevail mightily. He blessed the “waste” because it was an act of turning away from their previously ungodly lives.
Though it will hurt to scrap such costly things, the true value of the act will lead us to a more satisfactory result.
What in our lives needs to be scrapped, thrown out, tossed, burned, and “wasted?” The thought will no doubt leave us in some pain, but it’ll be worth it in the end.