Maybe it’s because I talk a lot that I feel my words are cheap. They slip out between my flapping lips in copious quantity, some to enter the ears of intended hearers and many to slide into oblivion. Add to this the fact that I myself often ignore what I’ve just said (causing me to repeat it) and you have a recipe for blather. The idea that my words lack worth was reinforced by the constant shushing I encountered as a chattering girl and, incidentally, still hear on occasion. Maybe my disdain for my blabbermouthery taints my estimation of my writing, too, so that I think what’s been read once is done and gone and should be laid to rest.
I don’t assign this judgment to others’ words, spoken or written. I treasure and revisit the expressed thoughts of my friends and mentors, of strangers I want to know, of icons who’ve proven wise. Why don’t I extend this gentlewomanliness to my own words? After all, the same God of these people is likewise recreating me in the image of His same Son, bringing me into maturity and granting me wisdom, equipping me to serve through words.
I’ve learned over time that my underlying (fleshly) motivation in communicating has been my need to feel I’m heard and understood; publishing brings validation. So I’ve tended not to submit a once-published work for reprint or to excerpt a passage for reapplication. After all, it’s been read already; that is, an audience has heard and understood me on that particular subject, so my immediate need is assuaged.
However, God allows me a compulsion to speak or write not in order to satisfy my own agenda but to bring Him glory.
This has led me to rethink my strategy on recycling work. My written words are much less copious than my casually spoken ones—more closely edited, weighed, and checked for meaning and impact. I don’t write off the cuff; rather, great deliberation goes into the crafting. Why would I abandon these valuable stories to float in cyberspace or (in paper) to line the bottom of some old lady’s drawer?
And so, fingers crossed, a couple of years ago I entered the highly subscribed Tom Howard/John H. Reid contest with a short story that a decade before had won recognition from the Canadian Church Press after its publication in Faith Today Magazine. Along with this vintage tale, I sent in a more recent one that had received the Graham Greene award from Athanatos, an apologetics organization. That is, I knew both published pieces had been judged as literarily worthy. Lo and behold, I received honourable mention for both stories (and subsequently have reissued them yet again through Kindle under a lovely book cover as a gift bribing readers to sign up for my newsletter).
These wins for older work, then, are personally encouraging to me and beneficial for promotional purposes. However, reusing previously published stories is possibly even more important on a ministry level. After all, as Paul pointed out in Romans 10:14, how will people call on God unless they believe in Him, and how will they believe without hearing, and how will they hear without our telling and retelling His story?
Published words, though years old, have as much life left in them as they have truth conveyed by them. Tastes change and trends bring new connotations, so some of my stories need revision. But a well-written, once-printed piece often has more timelessness and timeliness than I first intend, and God’s truth is always applicable.