I remember standing at an overlook in the mountains on a December night in 2006. I remember it was cold. Very cold. And though it made sense for me just to get back into the truck and turn the heat on, I couldn’t. I had to be outside with the stars and the wind. What I had to do couldn’t be done from inside the truck.
So I went ahead and built the fire. Walked down into the woods, found some rocks, dug a fire pit, and gathered kindling. I got the fire going despite the wind and tossed a few bigger sticks onto the pile. Cedar, I remember. I always liked the smell of burning cedar. And then I leaned back and half smiled and half didn’t, because it was all ready whether I wanted it to be or not.
I reached into my bag and pulled out a thick wad of paper bound by two rubber bands. I turned it over in my hands, watching the firelight dance against it.
Now, I thought…now.
But nothing happened. Whether it was the cold or God or the fabled spirits of the mountain, something had severed the connection between my head and my hands.
Failure seemed too bitter a word, so I decided it was all about letting go. About knowing how to as much as when to. The how was easy. I would burn it. That was the first thought that came to mind a few days before when I got the latest reply. The when, though? Not so easy. I thought for sure it would be that night, but I was having my doubts.
When you spend ten years of your life hanging onto a dream, it takes a lot out of you. You learn to get by on things like faith and hope and tenacity. You try to accustom yourself to blocking out the army of voices both within and without that scream you have no idea what you’re doing and therefore you shouldn’t even bother pretending anymore. It takes strength to endure more than it does talent.
I had the strength. The faith, too. Even had the hope and the tenacity. But something was still missing, and it was a big something. Something that seemed important enough that missing it brought me there in the mountains sitting in front of a fire, ready to incinerate five years of my life.
I was going to burn my manuscript. Release it into the ether once and more all and let its memory float away. I wanted to be done with my dream. I wanted to let go of it so it would let go of me.
I tried once more—
but I couldn’t, so I simply sat there in the cold and watched the flames dance.
This was not about letting go after all, I decided. No, it really was about failure.
I had pushed myself. Worked and tried and refused to give up, and still after all of that I had nothing to show for my life. It wasn’t that I was too weak to hang on or even too strong to let go. It was that I was stuck in the middle, wavering. A tough place to be. Maybe the toughest. But looking back I think that’s a place we all need to find ourselves at some point, if only so we can find out if our dreams are worthy of the people God calls us to be.
I was thinking about that night one day last week while I was looking over the Fall 2010-Winter 2011 catalog for my publisher, FaithWords. Not only was it pretty darn exciting to see my book on page nine, it was even more so to see they’ve used the cover art for Snow Day as the cover for the catalog. If you’d like, you can see it here.
My point is that in the end, your dreams are all on you. That means having the faith to see them through.
Having the hope to keep believing.
And it means forgiving yourself when you fail.
The compassion we’re called to show others is the very compassion we’re called to show ourselves. That alone is a source of divine strength.
That alone can move mountains.
I’m proof of that.
This post is part of the blog carnival on Compassion, hosted by Bridget Chumbley. To read more, please visit her site.