EDITING AS DIVINE PROCESS
READ: Psalm 26
“Lord, be my judge! I go on my way in hope of innocence, my trust in You never wavering. So, Lord, examine me, test my heart and mind in your holy fire. For Your faithful love is always before my eyes, and I seek to live my life by Your truth.” – Psalm 26:1-3
Sister Kathleen, an English professor at the nearby Catholic university, approached me one day with a most unexpected offer. She said to me, “Reverend, I have been reading your devotionals that are being posted on the campus webpage. It is most interesting to hear a Protestant perspective on our Catholic thought. Reverend, you do have a gift for stating spiritual thoughts in most beautiful ways. I find your writing a blend of pastoral sensitivity and artistic imagination. I was wondering if I might have the privilege of serving as your editor for some of your writing.”
I confess, I was a bit dumbfounded by this gracious offer. At first, I was highly complimented, my humble writings being read and appreciated by such an accomplished professor of English literature and composition. But then that momentary sense of honor was replaced by an overwhelming wave of insecurity. You see, in times gone by, my fragile writer’s ego did not handle well the critical feedback of editors. Typically, when I received their “corrections” and “suggestions”, I would suffer through a period of angry defensiveness followed by a sullen depression, which then settled into a dark valley of despair. Sensing my hesitation, Sister Kathleen, being a soul of exquisite kindness, went further …“Oh, Reverend, fret not. I merely would like to be part of your creative process. Let me free you from the worry of this point of grammar or that awkward sentence structure, so that you might be free to create … something I do believe God has called you to do as God has called me to help “perfect” a written text. I promise – I will be gentle.” I smiled at those last words for I am a man of robust size, burly you might say, and this nun could be no more than five foot tall, her face and manner exuding a delicate countenance. And so, …after a pause, a prayer, and a deep breath … there on the campus grounds, beneath what is known locally as the Charter Oak, we came to an agreement. I would bring her some of my work, and she would be my editor.
Not long after that I began receiving her edited copy of my pages. Her editorial marks were often preceded with words such as …”You might consider …” or ..“If you think it might help, you might re-write this line in this way …” At first, I bristled – but to my satisfaction of progress being made, not as much as I used to – and then I began to observe how I slowly began to incorporate into my work her editorial suggestions, somehow always sensing that she was loving my words maybe even more that I did love them myself. I am enjoying this new-found, unexpected partnership. My vision is that as we work together, my writing will become more and more perfected. (I still can compose some astounding run-on sentences… and as to commas — who knows where they might fall!)
The contemplative process for our maturing in Christ is … the perfecting of life and spirit. In my times of contemplative prayer, occasionally the Spirit of the Lord will bring to my mind a memory of a certain something in my life. It could be a harsh word spoken or a silent plea left unheard; it could be a ministry moment declined or a soul I passed by on the way to other, less important matters in my too busy day; it could a festering hurt or a fretting worry, a frustrating habit or a fading love. Yes, out of the empty silence of contemplation, the Lord sometimes brings to mind … in a form of “judgment” that is gentle yet honest, points that could be improved. This softer judgment of our struggling ways is done in a way that is much like the editing of Sister Kathleen upon my struggling words. One by one, or maybe a two or three in a day, the “sins” of my soul are brought to my attention, not to condemn or to demoralize, but to lovingly assist and to patiently guide. So in this way … one might think of the judgment of God as it applies to the maturing of Christian souls … as like an honest yet kind Editor who cherishes who we are and the lives that we live, … possibly more than we cherish these ourselves.
My Loved Ones, each day allow some time for some editorial conversation between you and the Lord. Reflect upon the memories with a most kindly, hopeful grace. And over time, I have experienced and I do believe, … the writing of your soul will become more and more “perfected“.
Brother Anthony of the Cross
— Visit my poetry site, Willow Words, by clicking www.willowwordspoetry.wordpress.com .
Also visit my new Psalter site for a reading of the Psalms www.thepsalmsbybrotheranthony.wordpress.com