Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall...

I recently caught up with a friend for Bible study. We were reading through 1 John 4, and I was struck afresh by the verse 18 which reads: "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear. because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love." (TNIV)
Isn't that powerful?

It resonated with me because I realised how often my actions are motivated by fear, not love. I don't talk to that person because I think they won't like me. I won't encourage that person because they're doing better than me and obviously don't need it as much as I do. These actions come from living in fear, not love.

I've been a Christian a long time, but in talking with my friend I really felt challenged about this passage. If God is love, and we are to live in God and in His love, then I really need to SEE myself as loved. As a Christian, someone who understands Jesus Christ's death has paid the penalty for my sins, then instead of looking at my sin, my failures, my not-good-enoughs, I need to see God's love. It's like looking in a mirror, what do I see: my hopelessness, or Jesus smiling back at me, the ultimate demonstration of God's love?

The more I focus on God's love - seeing it, recognising it each day, owning it - then the more I can live in His love, and not my fears. The more I focus on God's love then the more encouraging, generous, confident I can be.  The more I focus on God's love then the more like Jesus I will be.
It's such a good reminder, isn't it?

If I don't want to live motivated by fear then all the more do I need to KNOW God's love for me.
If I'm to love in God's love and share that love with others, I need to KNOW His love that nothing can alter.
If I'm a Christian author trying to share God's love with the world, I need to KNOW God's love for it to be authentic in my writing.

This proved especially relevant the next morning, when I received a review for my new novel that was a little less than what I'd hoped for. Now I know reviews are subjective, and wiser heads than mine have said 'don't read reviews'. But the truth is, I thought I had some level of relationship with this person that might warrant warmer praise; their words were nice, but not quite what I'd hoped for. (Come on, haven't we all felt a little disappointed or underwhelmed by faint praise at times?)

Through my shifting emotions I realised (again!) how often I can place my value in other people's opinions. As a natural introvert, and someone who values words as part of their love language, I really have struggled with not letting people's words affect me too deeply, which can thus affect my future dealings with them. The Bible verses I'd read the day before challenge me to not live this way, but to instead filter my emotions and thoughts and to view myself through God's word, where countless times we are reminded of God's love for His people.

God loves me. ("I have loved you with an everlasting love..." Jeremiah 31.3)
God loves me.  ("For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son..." John 3.16)
God loves me. ("Nothing can separate us from the love of God..." Romans 8.38-39)

Looking in the mirror of God's word, I need to recognise God's truth as truth and own that, and not own the negatives. Through Bible reading, meditation, just mulling over His words, I start to see things differently. Instead of my guilt, I see God's love. Instead of my sin, I see God's love.
Instead of feeling 'less-than' I feel "more than a conqueror." Why? Because of God's enabling love.

This applies to my writing as well. Sure, there are things I can improve on (I get that my work isn't exactly Shakespeare!), but setting my self worth according to other's opinions - good or bad - is a fool's game, and is guaranteed to leave me feeling tortured, and with a giant ulcer or three. Like my husband says: it isn't really real.

What is real is this: I am loved by God.
I am called according to His purposes. (Romans 8.28)
I am more than a conqueror (Romans 8.37)

And so are you!

Over to you: how have you encouraged yourself after a less-than-stellar review of your work? What are your thoughts on reading - or not reading - reviews?

Carolyn Miller lives in the beautiful Southern Highlands of New South Wales, Australia, with her husband and four children. A longtime lover of romance, especially that of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer’s Regency era, Carolyn holds a BA in English Literature, and loves drawing readers into fictional worlds that show the truth of God’s grace in our lives.
Her Regency novel ‘The Elusive Miss Ellison’ released in February 2017 from Kregel Publications, and is available from Amazon.com.au, Koorong and Book Depository. Her second Regency 'The Captivating Lady Charlotte' releases June 27, and her third, 'The Dishonorable Miss DeLancey releases October 24, both are available for preorder.

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13 comments:

  1. Thanks for the post, Carolyn. I read reviews. I think realising that the review is about my book or story, not me helps. Also, that I can learn from reviews, but that they are, as you say, subjective. Even the classics get 1 or 2 star reviews, or weak praise reviews. And it's better to have honest reviews, even if they are not glowing, than all 5 star as it shows potential readers that your reviews are authentic and by genuine readers. I agree that we should primarily draw our affirmation from God's love and acceptance.

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    1. I think the ability to read reviews might be affected by the emotional temperature of the day. I totally get there's a lot to be learned from constructive criticism, but until the bedrock of our identity is firmly fixed in God's word, it can be pretty easy to vacillate. Obviously I'm still a work in progress!! :)

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  2. Great reminder, Carolyn and wonderful perspective on how to reflect on reviews. I always remember my first review being a 1 and it saying something like "it's just bad, don't read it". I was morose for a day until I lay my head down at night and the Lord asked me "Is it really that important?". It struck me that it wasn't when compared to His love and from that point on I was able to let it go.

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    1. Nice. What a good reminder from God! Thanks Ian.

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  3. Totally agree with all you have written, Carolyn. God's amazing love transforms us and everything we say, write and do--if we let it! But that fear can so easily creep in, so that's why we need to stay close to God. Re reading reviews of my books, I remember with my first couple of novels how I was completely unaware there were reviews out there online until I stumbled on them! Maybe ignorance is bliss? However, now I do read them and try to weigh up where the negativity is coming from in any of them ie whether the reviewer is saying something I need to take on board or whether it is just their own personal preference.

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    1. Good points Jo-Anne. I think the timing of reading reviews is important too - probably not helpful when writing a first draft of a new work, in case there's too much second guessing. But perhaps reading (constructive!) criticism could be good for later versions. Time will tell!

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  4. Oh Carolyn, thank you. You've left me with tears in my eyes. Yes, God loves me. So powerful ... more powerful than anything. Weak praise from people we know can hurt more than a strong, negative review from a stranger. I remember a relative reading one of my manuscripts and saying, 'Yeah, it was good, but it made me want to write it from my point of view.' I destroyed the manuscript. It's true, we are more than conquerors through Him who loves us. May God use your book to bless many. Even if a reader leaves a mediocre or negative review, may God let His love filter through into their hearts through your words and point them to Him. And through this writing journey, may His peace beyond all understanding guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Love to you, precious friend.

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    1. Thanks Jenny. Anchoring ourselves in God's love helps enable that peace, methinks! Big hugs to you xx

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  5. Carolyn, well said. You made an interesting point about the ouch factor from a review written by someone you knew. Reviews help readers to determine if they'll like a particular book. A critical review may even assist you in selling your book to a new reader. I do like supporting other authors by writing book recommendations for books I've enjoyed. I don't write critical reviews because as a reviewer I have no control over how the author will handle the critical comments. It's not worth risking the relationship and I've seen authors melt down online in response to what they perceive as a mean or unfair review. The authors who think they are going to react emotionally to less than stellar reviews may be better off not reading them.

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    1. Too true, Narelle. I do appreciate your encouragement - thank you :)

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  6. Thanks Carolyn, I get where you're coming from. When we're not on our guard, those reactions motivated by fear instead of love creep up on us, and when it comes to mediocre feedback on our own love language, which is the written word, it can really sting. I love your picture of God's word as a mirror. So true that it's where our focus needs to be drawn back to, however many times.

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    1. Thanks Paula. Imagine if we truly saw ourselves with all the potential God sees - the ultimate mirror!

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