This writer's cunning foxes, by Deborah Jenkins

I'm currently rereading the wonderful book, Here and Now by Henri Nouwen. This are a series of meditations on the spiritual journey with themes of joy, suffering, prayer, compassion, family and relationships. 

The part I'm most drawn to at the moment is the first section, Living in the Present. Nouwen writes passionately about the newness of each day, hour, even minute, talking of approaching each moment as if it's full of possibility. He speaks of choices, reminding us that however hard the circumstances, there are always opportunities to choose joy. We must ignore the 'cunning foxes on our shoulders' and send them back to their foxholes. Instead, we should open our minds and hearts to the Master's Voice showing us how to discover new life 'hidden in the moment waiting eagerly to be born.'. 

Nouwen writes of the challenge of living in the present while the past and the future continually harass us. Memories fill us with guilt, and regret ('Oughts - You ought to have done this. You should have said that) The future is full of worry ('What ifs - What if I lose my job? What if my father dies?) We are held so firmly in the grip of the Oughts and What ifs that we become blind to the flowers in the garden, deaf to the kindness of friends.

These themes are particularly apposite for writers, methinks. The Oughts and What Ifs can paralyse us stopping us from enjoying the pace of the journey we're now on. Of course our cunning foxes will change over time, but here are some of my current ones: -
  • You ought to have been better planned and written more when you were younger. You'd have had more energy and creativity
  • You shouldn't have wasted your time in jobs where you were unhappy. You've come to serious writing too late 
  • Your covering letters for earlier novels were so embarrassing! No wonder no one took you on
  • What if your book is a complete failure? You will have put in all that time for nothing
  • What if your book goes down well and you get so excited you have a stroke and don't get to enjoy it? (often following a good review)
  • Having committed yourself to something new, what if it doesn't work out? Perhaps you're a one-trick pony. You're going to run out of words and look stupid...
It takes courage to put these down on paper (as it were) but I take the risk because I suspect many of us have similar voices whispering fear and failure into our writing. Yet while they're simmering away occasionally at the back of my mind, I'm also aware of those moments waiting eagerly to be born: -
  • On-going gratitude for the opportunity to be published traditionally with a wonderful publisher
  • Good pre-publication reviews
  • Writing friends who constantly support and encourage me
  • Family who believe in me and champion my calling as a writer
  • Praise for a God who had a plan for my writing and, after all these years, has given me the opportunity for a wider audience
  • A handful of readers who, realising their need for community, won't rule out finding it at their local church
This verse has followed me all through my writing life. I have no idea why: -

 'Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage. As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools. They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion.' Psalm 84:5-7

It's not a particularly well known verse but it keeps popping up again and again. Another moment waiting eagerly to be born, perhaps...

What are your cunning foxes and how does God remind you of His goodness in order to banish them? I'd love it if you would share them in the comments below 😊

Deborah Jenkins is the author of textbooks, educational articles and a novellaThe Evenness of Things, available in paperback and as a kindle e-book. 

Her novel, Braver, will be published on 30 June 2022 by Fairlight Books. You can read more about it, and pre-order via the publisher here or on Amazon. You can read a review and author interview about Braver here 

Deborah wonders aloud about the crazy, inspiring and inappropriate on her blog

Pre publication reviews on Waterstones

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