Stuff Christians Like “reads like it was cobbled together in about a weekend.” That’s one of the quotes from a 2 star review someone gave me on Amazon.
Most of the reviews have been great. There are 91 “5 Star” reviews. The press has been extremely kind. Andy Stanley said he “can’t put it down” and Craig Groeschel gave it a great review too.
But if you’re a writer, an artist, a mom, an accountant or just a human, you know that the negative reviews tend to be the ones you focus on. And Christians are the worst at this. We practically shot block compliments as a Christian courtesy and we instantly confuse confidence with arrogance. But critiques? We trust those as truth.
And they come. Whenever you try something new or different, you become a bit of a piñata. A radio station canceled my interview when they got my book. I researched them later and realized it would have been a cage match had I gone on the show with me feeling theologically cornered for my opinion on mimes and crock pots. But you still kind of feel like a loser when someone drops you like that.
Has that ever happened to you? Have you ever noticed that doubters spring up like weeds if you try to grow flowers in the garden of your life? Whether it’s a new job or a dream career, opposition or as author Steven Pressfield calls it, “resistance,” blossoms. Pursuing your dreams is a grand insult to those who haven’t pursued their own. You can tell, because people who have not accomplished something always criticize harsher than those who have.
I call it the “waitress theory.” If you’ve been a waitress you tend to tip better because you know it’s a difficult job. Experience often leads to empathy. So it’s easy for someone who hasn’t tried to become a knitter or go back to school or any other endeavor to critique your own attempt.
I wanted to get wrapped up in that 2 star review. I wanted to stop writing my second book and give up. I wanted to roll around in the grossness of it all and wear “horrible writer” cologne, which actually smells a lot like Drakkar Noir. But I couldn’t and I couldn’t because of Andy Stanley’s wife Sandra. She preached last weekend. In the midst of the sermon she said that when she decided to homeschool her children she suddenly had to say no to a number of things she really enjoyed doing. She didn’t have time and had to essentially quit a number of very worthy activities. She felt down about this until she read something in Nehemiah.
That’s my new favorite book of the Bible. (I swear it reads like a Biblical version of a Seth Godin book.) In it, Nehemiah sets out to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. This adventure is met with considerable, violent opposition. Nehemiah’s enemies are constantly trying to knock him off course and distract him. Finally, in chapter 6, verses 2-3 he responds. Here’s what he says:
“But they intended to do me harm. And I sent messengers to them, saying, ‘I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?’”
I love that. It’s so simple but so true. And it became Sandra’s rallying cry, something she hung up all over her house. When the phone would ring, she would say to herself, “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down.”
The temptation right now is to think that you are not, to think that because you are not a minister or a missionary or currently packing your bags for Guam that you are not doing a great thing, but you are. If you run into a single person today, you are doing a great work. If you have the chance to bump into someone with love today, you are doing a great work. If you have the opportunity to be light in a dark world or salt in a world that needs it, you are doing a great work. (Even the Bible believes in you more than you do sometimes. Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”)
There will be good opportunities that attempt to distract you from the great things you are called to do. Just like Sandra Stanley had to say no to positive things when she focused on homeschooling her kids. But people are also going to throw rocks at you. The 2 star reviews will come. Hate will creep in like smoke under the door and that’s OK. Don’t come down. Don’t even deliver the message yourself. Nehemiah sent a messenger instead.
You are doing a great work.
Don’t stop the work.
Don’t stop writing your book or singing your song or studying for that degree or raising your kids with truth.
You are doing a great work.