Accepting Critiques of your Work: Sanctification

criticism (2)

Courtesy of bing.

 

The rough draft is done. The rewrite is done. The first round of alpha readers is in. (You know who you are: thank you!) Adjustments are made, notes are taken, and the story is ready to simmer while the rough draft of Book 2 is written. Rinse and Repeat.

This is my general cyclical habit when I’m writing a novel.

Last year, I added in a new step via Scribophile. As I read, critique, and learn from other writers at various stages in their craft, I share my chapters to be critiqued in their turn.

What a different world. I get the email notice that my work has been critiqued and I’m instantly nauseous. This is not my writing group of gentle suggestions. This isn’t fellow believers who see the beauty of the gospel in my work. This isn’t friends who’ve been reading my work for years. This isn’t even acquaintances of friends who wanted to see what I write. These are people who don’t know me and are willing to take any given chapter apart word by word. (I’m now crawling into a corner.)

If you’ve never opened yourself up for a sound critiquing, you need to know there is little in the world as painful. I had to build a tiny network of friends/fans/readers just to talk me down off the rough every time I got a critique.

I will admit much of the negativity and harshness is in my head. The critiquers have, over all, been very encouraging, kind, positive, and helpful. But, God is a master at using every element of our lives to point out our remaining sin and make us more like Christ. Getting critiques of my beloved story was the perfect opportunity for God to help me see my pride.

Sigh. There was a lot of it.

Paragraph breaks, commas, dialogue, telling, info drops, confusion, descriptions. Each time someone pointed out something that needed another polish with the old rag, a little voice of anger rose up in me: “Can’t they see that this is the greatest work ever???? What’s wrong with them?” Whoa. Hold up there, Betsy. Greatest work ever? Really? Come on.

Someone’s struggling with pride. Me.

Lesson 1: Getting Critiqued Requires Humility. If you want to survive any type of criticism and come out better on the other side, you must willingly admit that you are in need of improvement. You do not have it all down. You aren’t perfect. And you can’t see everything. It’s a scary and vulnerable position to put yourself in even when you have a computer between you and a critiquer. But! It’s also very healthy. I’ve done my greatest growing under strong criticism. (Generally, after some pity-partying, but I’m working on that.) Thinking you have it all together, that you have no room to learn, grow, or improve is not a good place to be. It’s a place of pride and a place of stagnation. We all have ways we can be better. Better writers, wives, mothers, church members, and just all around human beings. If we don’t accept criticism, we’re probably in danger of also deciding we don’t need to listen to the preaching of the Word, or our spouses, or our parents. This leads us right into rebellion.

God used an online critique group to really poke at my pride. It wasn’t fun. But, I’m thankful he didn’t leave me thinking I was all that, and didn’t need to keep growing.

Lesson 2: Getting Critiqued Requires Confidence. Having other readers and writers tell you a name doesn’t work, or a sentence doesn’t fit, or they don’t like the description here, or a character isn’t making sense to them is very important for the storyteller to hear. But, the storyteller can’t blindly apply every suggestion given. Why? First, constantly contradictory advice is given. What works for one reader doesn’t work for another. One person loves a description and someone else hates it. You must decide what works in your book. Second, only you the storyteller sees the end. You know that the description is important, or the character, or the name. They haven’t read the whole book yet.

So while you humbly listen to their advice, you also sometimes have to confidently reject it. They don’t know your story as well as you do. You can’t make everyone happy. Sometimes a critique is wrong.

I’m the kind of person who hates conflict. (ISFJ, here.) I’d rather sacrifice what I want in the name of peace and quiet, then stand up for something. I’ve had to learn that it’s okay to ignore critiques, advice, suggestions, and outright demands. I don’t have to do what someone says just cause they really hated something. It’s my story.

This flows out into the rest of my life as a warning about who I listen to. I need to be very careful who I allow to critique my life. My pastors, my husband, close, wise friends. These are the people I need to listen to and I can confidently trust. I don’t need to accept every criticism the world or people level at me. I don’t need to listen to people who tell me how they think I should manage my health, my life, my home, my schedule, if what they say doesn’t line up with the truth of the Word, or what my husband has laid out. I can confidently ignore them. They aren’t my authority. Sometimes this means preaching to yourself when you read a blog article, watch TV, read magazines, or even talk to friends. Sometimes it means talking to your husband when you get home about what a supposed authority said.

 

criticism

Courtesy of bing.

 

From having my work critiqued by strangers, I’ve learned that you must hold in one hand great humility, and in the other great confidence. You must be willing to admit you need work, while at the same time know what’s best for your story.

Life is the same. You must humbly listen when others point out faults or make suggestions. You must confidently stand strong so you don’t try to be everything to everyone and forget who and what’s important in your life.

God is good and uses everything, even a harsh critique of a chapter you love, to show us our sins and to make us more like Christ!

 

Sunday Thoughts: Why I’m Not a Roman Catholic

Crucifixion_by_Josse_Lieferinxe_3

“It is finished.”

Those three words, fleshed out by other scriptures like those found in Hebrews, are why I’m a Reformed Baptist as opposed to a Roman Catholic.  I believe that the scriptures are abundantly clear that salvation is humble and simple.  The glory of the salvation of sinners is all of Christ and none of us.

I don’t practice, nor will I ever practice Lent, confessions to a priest, mass, have a priest, or wear a crucifix.  Why?

“It is finished.”

All.  100%.  Every bit of the work that needed to be done for the salvation of the church has been done.  Christ is no longer on the cross.  He is no longer in the tomb.  He is SEATED at the right hand of God.

To understand why this is so important you have to be willing to stomach a little gore, and even if you can’t, you need to.  When God chose out a people, the Israelites, He set up a system of sacrifices.  They were required to lay their hand on the head of an animal as a symbol of it taking their sins upon itself.  Then, the animal was slaughtered, disemboweled, and dismembered.  Blood had to be spilled by an innocent creature to cover sin.  We see this in Genesis when God Himself took an animal skin to cover Adam and Eve’s nakedness after they sinned.  We see this in the sacrificial system of the Old Testament, and we see it in Christ’s crucifixion.  Sin requires blood.  Just imagine the sheer number of animals that gave up their innocent lives in the Old Testament era.  Thousands.  Over and over and over.

Hebrews 9: 19-26:

18 Therefore not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood. 19 For when every commandment of the law had been declared by Moses to all the people, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, 20 saying, “This is the blood of the covenant that God commanded for you.” 21 And in the same way he sprinkled with the blood both the tent and all the vessels used in worship. 22 Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.

23 Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. 25 Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, 26 for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.

What does this mean?  It didn’t work.  The blood of animals didn’t take away sin or they would have slaughter only one animal.  If it had worked, Christ wouldn’t have had to come and die.

Not only that, but look at the rules set in place to enter the presence of God.  Have we forgotten He is holy???  Guess who got to go into His presence? One man.  One man, once a year.  That was it.  A huge, heavy veil hung between the priests and the place where God was.  Even more space was between the priest and the people.  And, an even bigger space was between where God was and women.

But Christ!  Christ came, the better Prophet, the better Priest, and the better King.  He came, lived a holy life that we are incapable of living, humbly closed his mouth when falsely accused, died on a Roman cross, rose again and by death conquered death, entered not the earthly Holy of Holies behind the veil, but heaven itself where He was accepted by the Father.  And he SAT down.  One sacrifice, for all time, for His people.  He ripped the veil in two and opened the way for me, a woman, to come to God, through His blood.

Hebrews 10:11-18:

11 And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when Christ[a] had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

15 And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying,

16 “This is the covenant that I will make with them
after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws on their hearts,
and write them on their minds,”

17 then he adds,

“I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”

18 Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.

Are we so quick to put veils back up between us and God?  Are we so quick to demand that we play a part in our salvation when Christ opened up the path to heaven?  Why do we run to the shadows when we have been given the light?

We are no longer required to do these things!  Our sins are forgotten.  Why should we repeat them to an earthly priest?  Was Christ’s blood not enough that we are required to do penance?  Is the blood of the Son of God that weak?  Aren’t we freed from the burdens of the law?  Why would we make new laws for ourselves?

It is finished!

Christ paid the price and asked us, his beloved church, to believe in Him.  He didn’t hand us a long list of do’s and don’ts. He told us to love one another.  Instead of abstaining from Facebook for a month, try loving the person sitting on the pew next to you!  We aren’t holier because we abstain or indulge!  We are called to love our church family.

You can go there, but the cross and the grave are both empty.

You can go there, but the cross and the grave are both empty.

I’m amazed at how quickly we Protestants are willing to cave to the pressure to add rules or suggestions to the Scriptures that Christ hasn’t given.  We fought and bled for this truth, are we so fat and lazy we now willingly give it up just a few generations later?  I’m ashamed so many Protestants are unaware of why we don’t practice Lent.  It is finished, people.  The work is done.  Christ is sufficient.  He left nothing undone.  The few things Christ has called us to do – love our church family, develop the fruit of the Spirit, become more like Him – flow from our love of Him.  And, they are hard enough without adding burdens to your load that He never gave us.

What we don’t like about what Christ has given us is that these things start in the mind and heart of the believer and work out in our small local churches.  They aren’t real visible.  They don’t go viral.  The world doesn’t see them.  It’s work and it’s a daily, moment by moment, battle.  No one gets to really see if you’re being holy or not.  I think this is where we slip up.  We constantly want to have a hand in our salvation and our sanctification.  But biblical salvation is simple, not grand.  Its glory resides in a place beyond death.  That humility is so hard for us.  We want the glory here and now on this earth.  Resist the call of the flesh.  Resist the desire to add to your salvation.

Galatians 3: 1 – 9:

1 O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by[a] the flesh? Did you suffer[b] so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith— just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”?

Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify[c] the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

My Christ, who paid for my sin, isn’t still on a tree.  He rose again!  He isn’t wringing His hands worried about who is and isn’t being saved.  He reigns now, knowing and preserving His people, His bride.  My job is to serve my church starting with the church member I live with and going out from there.  I’ll never wear a crucifix because Christ isn’t there.  I have pastors and teachers, not priests.  I have only One great High Priest who did His job one time and it is finished.

John 8: 31 – 32

31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Quote of the Weekend

 

Pride slays thanksgiving, but a humble mind is the soil out of which thanks naturally grow. A proud man is seldom a grateful man, for he never thinks he gets as much as he deserves. – Henry Ward Beecher
(I love this quote. Humility is the soil of thankfulness. We see this kind of pride so often in our own country. If you think you’re entitled it’s because you’re not humble. Humility doesn’t demand, it’s thankful for all that it has.)