Some of my best essay ideas are fully developed while I’m driving down the road or trying to get some sleep at night. I get so excited about the topic.
I think of scripture that can be used to back up what I want to write. I might not remember chapter and verse, but I remember enough to be able to find the text once I can get to my Bible.
In some cases, I think of amusing or poignant stories that would illustrate the point.
At times, I am brought to tears. This essay topic and how it is being developed in my mind is so, so perfect.
Then, I arrive at my destination, if driving, or I fall asleep, if lying down. As a result, I forget what I was thinking about.
Sometimes, if God really wants me to write on the subject, it pops back into my head, days or weeks later. However, it seems that most of the time, it is simply gone.
My wife can remember almost all of her dreams in infinite detail. She asks me about my dreams, and I can remember which dreams are good, which are neutral, and which are bad. In other words, I remember my feelings during the dream. Occasionally, I’ll remember a color. Rarely can I remember the gist of the dream, never the details. What I can do that my wife finds unbelievable (because she can’t do it) is resume a dream after waking up in the middle of the night, sometimes having a continued dream for a few days, in ten or fifteen installments. When I can’t remember my dreams, how can I know that I have returned to continue the same dream? When I wake the next morning, I remember being awake, lamenting that the dream had been such a good one and I wanted to go back. Then when I awake the next time, I remember the satisfaction that the story had continued when I did go back to sleep. Okay, I wake up a lot at night, even with the CPAP. The odd thing is that I can remember that I had been there before while sleeping, but not remember the dream once I wake up. I only remember that I experienced the next chapter in the dream.
So it is with my essay ideas. When I get to the computer after driving or sleeping, I stare at a blank computer screen. I ask God why nothing is coming to mind. I remember my excitement about the topic. In other words, I remember the feeling. I simply cannot remember the topic.
This was frustrating and a source of anger, until I realized a nugget from God’s sovereignty. If God wanted that topic to be published at that time, He would keep it in the forefront of my mind or remind me later when I’m ready to write about it. But why waste ideas that make me excited? Wouldn’t it make everyone excited? The corollary to the aforementioned truth is also true. If God wanted me to get excited about a topic, that’s between Him and me. I got a wonderful blessing by sharing a one-on-one moment with the creator of the universe. My prayer time is pathetic, if you judge it on structure, form, schedule, etc. But when I ponder a topic, that God had put into my head in the first place, I get to study (in my mind) the scripture that God had stored in my heart and relate it to that topic. As the essay topic moves toward complete, perfect formation in my mind, my eyes are opened to a small slice of heaven. I may think my essay is perfect, but I see true perfection in the Glorified Christ. Maybe that’s why I can’t remember it. Maybe not even I am ready for that ‘Lost Essay’ to be put on paper.
Peter, James, and John were told not to tell about the transfiguration until after the resurrection (Matthew 17:9). Peter was so excited that he wanted to build shelters for Jesus, Elijah, and Moses. He wanted the moment to be saved for all time. Compare this to Jesus saying that He had no place to lay His head in Matthew 8:20. Peter wasn’t in the mood to build a shelter then. What changed? The Glory that we who know the Lord will see in the next life is what Peter glimpsed for just a moment. Why not share it now? If we were like Peter, we would have babbled on and on about making shelters and no one would have a clue what we experienced. People would start looking for the men in the white coats to come and get us. The visions of heaven in the Old and New Testaments talk of things that don’t make sense at times. How can a gate be made out of a single pearl? Anything is possible with God, but maybe it is something that looks like a pearl and John was at a loss for words.
Why do we forget these perfect moments in our lives? Sometimes when we do share our experiences, people don’t believe the story or they believe it, yet not fully comprehend it. Some people become offended. You talk about being born again, and the person who is not born again takes offense. They think you are talking about an exclusive club where they are not invited. Maybe they prayed the ‘salvation prayer’ and nothing happened. They didn’t adhere to the part of the prayer that says that you hold nothing back. You put all of your faith in Jesus without reservation. You don’t simply try Him out for the weekend.
Getting the opportunity to say something or the focus to write something down depends on many factors when it comes to the sovereignty of God. First, are you ready to articulate it adequately? Second, is the reader or listener being affected by the Holy Spirit so that they can understand the words in the spirit that they were written or uttered? And then, is this the right time so that the communication leads to action that furthers God’s kingdom?
I have some written essays that may never see the light of day. After reading them a week later, I wonder what bad influence had helped me write the essay. In some cases, I have salvaged a paragraph or two and rewritten it. Some remain as reminders that I need to spend more time in Bible study and prayer. I need to rely more on the Holy Spirit writing the essay instead of me doing it on my own. At times, the essay just appears on the page. My fingers are tired, so I know I was typing, but I am so in the moment, listening to that inner voice, that I don’t seem to be the one writing.
So, when you get that idea about something that you want to share with someone else and then you forget it, don’t be frustrated. Don’t be angry. God shared His thoughts with you, but maybe the person you had as your target audience is not ready for the topic, or your way of dealing with the topic, or the basic Truth of the topic.
Let’s look at the difference in the writer and the reader as a rearview mirror. We all write as one who has followed the path that we see clearly in our rearview mirror. Yet, no one else in the entire world sees the same thing in their mirror. When man and woman marry and become one as described in the scriptures, their rearview mirror may have a lot of the same scenery, but we still see things through the filter of our own upbringing, childhood environments, and the way the Holy Spirit is working in us at that specific moment. That not only affects how we express our ideas, it affects how we interpret the evidence of God working in us, in the people around us, and the world as a whole. The reader has his own set of experiences that will not match our own.
As an example, I love reading mystery novels. When I first read a Dave Robicheaux novel by James Lee Burke, I was hooked. At times, you could not only see the scene in your mind, you could smell the swamp. You could hear the croak of the frogs, the splash of an alligator going into the water or a fish jumping from the water in the bayou. But I lived in southeast Texas for three years. Since I married a woman who lived in that area, we have made trips through Louisiana as often as possible to go back and visit relatives. If Robicheaux ate a bowl of red beans and rice, I can taste it, because I like red beans and rice, too. Yet, someone from the inner city in Boston or New York would have no reference point about swamps. Have they ever seen a swamp, or bayou, or alligator in the wild? When we who have seen the swamps of life experience something, our image is real. The person that does not have the experience can only imagine what it might be like.
So it is with Lost Essays, it is real for us. If it is real and useful for others, God will bring it back to us at the right time. But when that ‘Lost Essay’ is lost before you can write it down, thank God that He took you on a wild and wonderful ride. Also pray that the audience will be brought along in their time. When the time comes, you’ll be able to share your experience and they will be able to enjoy the moment as well.