Article: Put Me in, Coach

By Sally Apokedak, associate agent for the Leslie H. Stobbe Literary Agency. Learn more about Sally on her page on this site or visit her website, sally-apokedak.com.

sally apokedakAs we trudge down the long publishing road, hoping for our first (or our next) contract, it’s tempting to give in to envy. I’ve heard about “writer envy” on many writers’ email loops. One person gets a contract and everyone cheers. Congratulations and good wishes fly—as thick as a flock of starlings. But then a writer posts, saying she’s ready to quit. All she’s gotten are rejections. And she’s depressed.

Why does success for others tempt us to despair? We can be perfectly happy one minute, and fall into a depression the next. News that someone else got a contract from a publisher we were hoping to sign with can cause envy to flare. We know it’s a sin to covet our neighbors’ contracts—but we struggle all the same. We want to be happy for friends when they get good news, but we wonder why God isn’t blessing us. When is it going to be our turn?

It’s always our turn for joy.

We choke joy out, though, when we expect temporal things to give us fulfillment. No matter how many “things” we pile up—how many accomplishments, how much money, how much fame—it will never be enough.

If we’re depressed before we’re published, we’ll be depressed after we’re published. There will always be someone else with more contracts, more awards, more bestsellers. If we see earthly success as indicative of God’s love and blessing, we’re bound to be disappointed. We’ll always think he’s giving someone else bigger blessings.

But that’s not how God works. He doesn’t give the biggest contracts to his favorite children.

basketball hoopA friend of mine who was a basketball coach tells me that every year on her basketball team she had girls who didn’t get to play much. They were on the bench not because she disliked them, but because they lacked skill.

Was my friend being unfair to make them sit out? Does every girl deserve to play? What if some of the better team members had scholarships riding on the team’s performance? Would it be fair to them if the coach played the unskilled girls?

You may say writing isn’t a team sport. But it is, kind of. All of the Christian life is a team sport. We’re part of a team. Part of a family. Part of a body. If publishers put out bad books, readers will quit buying, and publishers will go out of business. Then the whole team will suffer.

Sometimes unpublished writers, like unskilled basketball players, simply need to keep writing. Keep practicing. Take time to learn. If God called you to publish, that doesn’t mean it will happen right away. Joseph spent time in prison. David spent years in the desert. The call and the consummation don’t come in the same instant. There may be years of preparation. Don’t despair. Wait patiently on the Lord.

But what about the writers who have put in years? They’ve studied, they’ve nurtured their talent, and they still can’t break in. What about those folks?

Those writers need to fill up on God’s love and let it squeeze out every other longing.

God’s the coach and he’s also the Father who loves me. I’m thrilled that he lets me watch with him from the sidelines. I’m thrilled when he puts me in the game even if I only get to assist while another team member gets to shoot and score. I want my team to win.

Maybe you’re on the bench this year and you want to play. Maybe you’re playing, but you never get to shoot. Wait patiently. Your Father is wise—the best coach around. He loves you and he’s preparing you for the work he’s called you to do. Rest assured: At the perfect time, he’s going to give you the ball.

8 thoughts on “Article: Put Me in, Coach

  1. Thanks for sharing the sports analogy, Sally. Must admit I’ve begged the coach to put me in the game while I’ve been blind to my lack of skill. Being forced to sit on the bench has prompted me to study craft, so my skills are bound to improve, right? Thanks for renewing hope.

  2. While agreeing with you hole heartedly knowing that everything you say is true. However, you can not stop human nature. I have had a short story published. Thinking boy here I go. Still turning to God for help and continued knowledge. I still come back with nothing but rejection letters. Do I give up . No but that doesn’t stop the feelings of depression. I turn to the Lord and berate myself for feeling jeolous, and then the feeling is ashamed. So the answer I have come up with go ahead and have the human feelings but just keep it to yourself. Congrats to all those who get their contracts. But don’t moan and complain because no one listens to you any way. (At least not for my Luck any way.)

  3. Tough reality; having to deal with our humanity. After 7 years and 6 days of writing a spiritually-mandated manuscript, it has now been well over a year since its completion. Writing was not on my “bucket list.” I had no such aspirations. But, as I learned through writing the book, destiny doesn’t always look the way we think it will. Along those lines, it is important to realize exactly what Ms. Apokedak so aptly advises:

    Your destiny is a part of the Master Plan. Remember that along your own Path of Purpose is everything you need, from resources to spiritual growth; Divine connections and support. It’s tough to “stay in your lane” in that regard because the enemy’s greatest and most effective weapon is pulling us off-focus.

    Now, consider this: If all who are your divine connection are along your Path of Purpose, only those individuals are equipped to catch your vision! After so many rejections in my 7-year journey I finally decided that not every person I meet will “get it.” I decided not to be offended if they didn’t, realizing that they must not be a part of God’s plan in MY life and that as I “stay in my lane;” hold on to my vision with unrelenting focus; and make destiny-decisions based on my own God given purpose, I would eventually meet destiny. It took a whole lot of patience…a whole lot of focus….and a whole lot of personal healing along the way.

    Please take comfort in the truth that what God as designed for you can belong to no other. Decide to rejoice in the success of others as a matter of planting that seed toward your own future harvest. Pray for God’s supernatural wisdom and discernment in order to keep your purposeful focus. Then, keep plugging away!

    Your destiny as as real as rock, as unchanging as the One who crafted it, and as sure as your determination and obedience! Believe it!

  4. Thanks for commenting, everyone.

    Gwyn, The Bible tells us that God lavishes his love on his children. It says that he proved his love for us in this: while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. God loved us so much that he gave his perfect, beloved son to die for us. How much more then will he give us every good gift? If he didn’t withhold his son, we can know for sure that he’ll give us all the smaller gifts that are good for us. His children are dearly loved. Not tolerated. Dearly loved. He is giving us all really good gifts. He’s not unfair. He’s not giving one child better gifts than he gives another child. He gives us all the gifts that are good for us. He delights in giving us good gifts. His desire if for us to be healthy and full of joy.

    We can thank him, and really, really mean it, when he doesn’t give us something we want. Because we can know for sure that he’s giving us the best thing for us. And when we stop fretting and start thanking him, the peace of God which passes understanding guards our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus. Test him in this. Present your requests to him by prayer and petition with thanksgiving (I think that means thanking him for hearing, and resting in the knowledge that he’ll answer in the way that is best for you), and see if peace floods you. I think you’ll love it.

  5. I put this link on my bookmark bar (not the drop-down menu, the bar, next to Facebook and Pinterest) I need this everyday! Thank you Sally!

  6. I love the sentence “It’s always our turn for joy.” How right you are. I have a saying that I tell myself almost every day:
    “God gives me what He wants me to have.” I know what He wants for me is so much better than anything I could dream up on my own. He gave me a desire to write and I will do all I can to develop that gift, but in the end my greatest goal is not to be a famous author, but to make it Home. Thank you for this beautiful post and perspective, Sally!

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