Fear Doesn’t Cancel God’s Direction in Our Lives

writing series header Final

I enjoy hearing inspiring stories about how people chose their professions—how they knew, sometimes at a very young age, what they wanted to be when they grew up.

The teacher who used to line up her dolls and instruct them in her childhood bedroom comes to mind, along with the healthcare worker who went through a medical crisis as a teenager and got such wonderful care from her nurses that she decided to become one herself.

I wish I had a similar anecdote, but I don’t. My answer to, “Why did you decide to go into journalism?” is actually sort of pathetic, if you want to know the truth.

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I started thinking about this when I read Donald Miller’s take on the same question. In Scary Close, the bestselling author bluntly reveals the driving force behind his career choice.

“Today, when people ask why I became a writer I try to answer honestly,” he says. “I’m a writer because, at an early age, I became convinced it was the one thing I could do to earn people’s respect. It’s true in the process I learned to love words and ideas and these days I actually like to get lost in the writing process. But the early fuel, the early motivation, was all about becoming a person worth loving.”

I appreciate his honesty, and, in a roundabout way, I also can relate to it.

I didn’t become a writer because I loved words so much or because the writing process held irresistible appeal to me. Instead, it was fear that led me into writing.

When I was a sophomore in high school, I had a hole in my schedule. I could either choose newspaper class or Spanish. I didn’t know if I would be able to learn Spanish—OK, I was afraid I couldn’t—so I chose newspaper. I stayed with it the next year, and the year after that.

I enjoyed writing for my high school newspaper. I developed decent reporting skills and even won some awards at the statewide journalism contests my classmates and I went to each year.

When the time to choose a college major, I had no idea what to pick. So I decided to go with journalism—partly because I was good at it, but mostly because it was safe and familiar.

I didn’t want to fail at something new, so I chose what I knew.

I wrote for the university’s student newspaper for a couple of years, and then moved to the media relations office, where I had to conjure up every ounce of courage I possessed to call professors and university staff members for interviews. I even considered changing my major during my junior year—to something related to health and nutrition, I think—but once again, I decided to stick with what I knew.

All along, I had one stated career goal: I never, ever wanted to work for a newspaper. (Writing that now, I realize this makes no sense at all, given my college major and all. But that’s how I felt.)

I started off keeping that goal, too, as my first job out of college was doing communications-related work with a large engineering firm in Kansas City. But when I got married a year later, the only position I could find in the area where Randy and I settled down was with the hometown newspaper in Bentonville, Ark.

My work as the paper’s business editor, then later as a business reporter for the statewide daily, was interesting and educational. While I enjoyed learning about local companies and extracting information out of people I interviewed, though, I did not enjoy the competitive nature of the media industry. At times, the fear of being scooped by a reporter at another area paper literally caused me to throw up in the morning before I left for work.

I also was obsessed with accuracy, which is not necessarily a bad thing unless it causes you to check and recheck stories a dozen times, constantly worrying that you are going to make an error. Perfectionism co-mingled with fear does not make for a peace-filled life, let me tell you.

After about five years in the newspaper business, I went to work for a magazine devoted to the subject of theology and work. It was there that I first sensed a passion for writing about faith-related topics, which is primarily what I’ve focused on ever since.

In retrospect, it’s apparent that one job prepared me for the next, and that people I met in one workplace opened doors at future workplaces. I am so grateful for this.

But over the years, I’ve sometimes struggled with the fact that fear was, at least initially, such a motivating force behind my career choice. That’s not just uninspiring; it reveals a lack of trust that still makes me squirm.

Lately, though, I’ve started looking at it through the lens of God’s grace and mercy. And here’s what I’ve found.

I may have majored in journalism because it was the safe and easy choice, but God knew the plans He had for me. Maybe my motivation was weak and flawed, but He used it to direct my steps.

He’s God. He can do that.

He used a dear journalism professor to provide wise counsel when I was contemplating a different direction in college. He used editors along the way to mold my skills and—as I will share in a few weeks—even expose weak spots in my character.

I see all that now. I’m glad for it.

And—despite my early struggles—I’m not sorry I became a writer, even though I don’t have an inspiring story to explain why.

How about you? Can you spot evidence of God’s direction and redeeming power as you look back over your life and career?

Lois Flowers

Note: This is the second post in my “Faith, Fear & The Life of a Writer” series. If you missed the first one, you can catch up here.

Also: I’m linking up this week with Kelly Balarie at Purposeful Faith, Jennifer Dukes Lee at #TellHisStory, Holley Gerth at Coffee for Your Heart, Lyli Dunbar at ThoughtProvokingThursday, Crystal Storms at #HeartEncouragementThursday, Crystal Twaddell at FreshMarketFriday and Jennifer Clarke at Grace & Truth.



35 Responses to Fear Doesn’t Cancel God’s Direction in Our Lives

  1. Thanks for sharing a piece of your journey with us. Isn’t it wonderful how God leads us one small step at a time?

  2. Julie says:

    Lois- you have a great story! I love how God directed you in the small to larger steps.
    Thank you for sharing!

    #Grace&Truth neighbor,
    Julie

  3. Love your story. It may be “uninspiring” to you, but it was inspirational to me. I always looked at those who seemed to know single-mindedly what their passion and gifts were and pursued them, with envy. It’s so good to hear stories of how God molds us and shapes us and directs us in different ways. His purposes for us may not always seem clear, but He has them for us and will get us there with our willingness or through our fear. Thanks for sharing!

    • Lois Flowers says:

      I totally agree about God’s purposes for us, Judy. I’m so thankful His plans never fail, despite our human failings and frailties! Thank you for your kind words here. 🙂

  4. Um I chose Speech Communication because I figured, hey, I can talk. I know, lame reason, but it worked out. 🙂

  5. I love your story here Lois. Thank you for sharing. I’ve loved writing since the 9th grade. I took a poetry class and was overwhelmed by the written word. I shared with my father I wanted to be a writer and he shot it down stating, “you can’t make a living writing” I believe deep down it was because he always wanted me to follow him into ministry. I had no desire at the time and became focused on making money. I would still write poems instead of bday cards for loved ones but I never pursued writing. Fast forward 4 years after the stroke; my baby sister mentioned blogging knowing of my love for writing. Lord willing my first book will publish this Fall. Like you share in your story. God has used every circumstance, choice, and situation to prepare me for this time. What an amazing Savior! Sorry for the long comment but your story inspired me;) I hope you have a fantastic weekend and may God continue to richly bless you and yours.

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Horace, thanks for sharing a bit of your writing journey here. I’m so glad you are able to trace the hand of God through all of those events and circumstances that led to the ministry you now enjoy. I hope the publication of your book goes smoothly! 🙂

  6. Helene says:

    So many of our life choices don’t come from inspiring places but God leads us to those amazing places!

  7. Somer says:

    This was very interesting to read. This last year I remember sitting in a counseling office telling a counselor something similar. A big life choice made more out of fear than the right motivation . So what now ? It frustrated me but not her. She assured me that so many people come to her with similar stories. You held the answer in your conclusion. God can take choices made on faulty foundations and turn them for good
    he redeems
    And foresees
    And re-weaves.
    Enjoyed reading this !

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Somer, aren’t you thankful for those wise people God places in our path who can help us see the truth about what we are going through? You’re right: “He redeems, and foresees, and re-weaves.” I love that!

  8. Lois,
    I savored every word of this post and read it twice! I love how you arrived at your life’s work and settled into your calling, and I love how you can look back and see God weaving his purposes into your experiences.

    I also majored in journalism in college but never pictured myself pounding the pavement for stories and interviews since I didn’t feel brave enough to do that. You are inspiring though, that you did work in the editorial department! I love the twists and turns our lives take (of course not so much at the time, but more in retrospect!) and I love when we can see God’s fingerprints that were there the whole time. xo

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Valerie, isn’t it interesting how every different person has a different idea of what bravery looks like? I have a feeling that, if I had a chance to read your whole life story, I would find plenty of examples of bravery there … things that you did easily that I would have found quite scary or even impossible! I love the twists and turns our lives take too, and I’m so thankful when God gives us a chance to see His fingerprints here and there. Every glimpse builds faith for the future, doesn’t it? I hope you have a lovely week! 🙂

  9. Anna Smit says:

    Love stories that show God weaving His way into our lives . . . even through fear. Yes, His grace reaches deeper than we often at first see, doesn’t it? I look back and see His protective grace woven through my life, even the twenty odd years I’d fled Him in fear, He kept weaving people into my life who blessed and still bless me. I also see His love for me in my unbelieving husband, who has an incredibly gentle, giving heart and loves me so very much. He works everything into good, even when we don’t have eyes to see it at first.

  10. Trudy says:

    Thank you for sharing this, Lois. I love how you encourage us to look through God’s lens of grace and mercy. He has it all planned out for each of us. I know I am so grateful He directed you to write here at your blog. 🙂 When I was younger, I remember saying I would NEVER become a teacher. And it’s strange how I ended up doing exactly that and finding out I had such a passion for it, too. 🙂 Blessings and hugs to you!

    • Lois Flowers says:

      And I’m glad you somehow happened to find my blog, Trudy! Your faithful encouragement is a true blessing in my life. I was just talking to Lilly today about why we should never say never, and your story about becoming a teacher is good example of that! Have a wonderful weekend, my friend!

  11. God knew the plans He had for you – it’s amazing if we trace our steps and, as you have, look at them through God’s lens that we come face to face with the fact that His hand is in all things. Sure, we make decisions and pursue plans, but it’s a true delight to know that God was directing our steps – event those that lead us through mistakes that grow and transform us. So glad that He nudged you toward writing – yours truly is a beautiful gift and the kingdom is better for it. Hugs, Lois.

    • Lois Flowers says:

      “His hand is in all things.” So true, Tiffany. Your words remind me of Proverbs 16:33 from the New Living Translation: “We may throw the dice, but the Lord determines how they fall.” There’s a lot comfort in that, don’t you think? Your words are always such a blessing … thank you!

  12. Lois, I’m so thankful the Lord uses fear and other not-of-Him motivations to direct our steps to serve Him. I can’t imagine what my life would be had God let my horrible motivations and intentions determine my path.

    I didn’t come by writing for a love of it, either. For me it was a need. Writing was my safe place and my escape. Because I saw writing as a coping mechanism, I was ashamed of it. None of my future plans included writing even though as a very small child I was once brave enough to say I wanted to be an author (that lasted about two weeks!!) When I finally took up a writing job, it was purely for the convenience of working on my own schedule and from any location. I thought it was temporary. Just this year I’ve accepted that being a freelance writer is a real job and faith writing is a real calling. Neither of these have to remain coping mechanisms because GOD.

    Praising Him for His grace and His transforming work in what motivates our hearts! Thanks for sharing and prompting me to see God’s hand in this way!

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Bethany, my heart aches when I think of the circumstances that caused you to turn to writing as your safe place. I’m so glad–and thankful–that you now see it as a calling and not as a shame-inducing coping mechanism. The posts you’ve been writing lately have been bold and strong, and I’m looking forward to seeing (and reading) where God leads you and your husband in the days ahead. Thank you for sharing how all this has played out in your life … so encouraging! 🙂

  13. Valerie says:

    I loved reading your post today. I think you were courageous to continue in the path of journalism. I felt the same things you mentioned when I wrote for my school newspaper in college. I couldn’t stand interrupting professors to ask for an interview and being treated like an inconvenience when I was desperate for people to accept me. I feared the competition and the stigma of reporters. My favorite article was an interview with a student who had been paralyzed in a car accident and learned to live again with joy. I’m glad that even though I never pursued journalism I’m still able to write. You have a beautiful gift and it’s always a blessing to read your posts! God bless you!

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Valerie, those kinds of stories–the one you did about the student who had been in the car accident–are the best, aren’t they? I once interviewed someone who had experienced something very similar, and I still think about what she said from time to time, even many years later. It’s comforting to know I’m not the only one who ever felt those things in college, although I’m sorry you had to go through that too! Thank you so much for sharing some of your own story here this week … your words have encouraged my heart!

  14. Thanks for sharing some of your background and story. I also enjoyed — and was challenged by — my reading of Scary Close. I’ve been meaning to pick up some of his other books, so thanks for the reminder!

  15. Linda Stoll says:

    Well, this is fascinating, Lois. To have your gentle invitation in hand, to pull back the curtain just a bit and discover exactly what motivated us to head in the direction that we did.

    Unsettling, really. It shows how we’re all broken in some way, shape, or form and how that woundedness informs our choices.

    And then grace appears. Because God takes our brokenness and giftedness and hopes and fears and spins them all together to make something beautiful and worthwhile.

    Amazing, isn’t it …

    • Lois Flowers says:

      He surely does, Linda. I’m loving how all of this looks so very different years after the fact … one of of the benefits of growing older, I guess? Thank you for your kind words, my friend.

  16. How lovely to read a little bit about your writing journey here, and to think fear was what fueled your start! 🙂

    I’m also amazed sometimes to see how God leads, even when it feels like are lives are an unrelated jumble of events, God has a plan.

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Thanks, Betsy. I like that phrase, “an unrelated jumble of events.” And isn’t it just like God to take all the knots and twists and misshapen pieces and make something useful and beautiful out of them?

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