A Personal Lesson as I’ve been Writing My Latest Book

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV, emphasis mine)

One day a few weeks ago was completely unproductive because of a sinus headache. After my morning clients, I had to take a nap. My wife asked me if I wanted to watch a movie that night and I hedged, saying that I might need to work if I wasn’t productive enough during the afternoon on a manuscript I’ve been working on. I’m currently writing a book for InterVarsity Press tentatively titled Unburdened: The Christian Leader’s Path to Sexual Integrity, due out in early Fall 2015. I simply “had to” get the manuscript out to my reviewers to give them enough time to do their part of giving me some much-needed feedback.

I recognized my error and called her back, telling her I would love to have a date night at home to watch a movie (as I tell my clients, this is our opportunity to practice the biblical principles of confession, repentance and restitution). She didn’t call it a date, but after hanging up the phone, I realized that’s what she was asking.

See, we’re in a season of child rearing – with two kids five and under, one being autistic – where we rarely get to go outside our house on a date. So watching a movie at home is pretty much what date night looks like these days.

After correcting my less-than-stellar reaction with Tanya, I fixed a bowl of soup and began reading an article by Dallas Willard in the latest Conversations magazine titled “How to Live Well”. It’s a magazine that was started by a few professors from my alma mater, Richmont Graduate University. In my busyness, I don’t always read it. But that day, something prompted me. So, I began reading.

The article spoke about discipleship and how this basic Christian doctrine is at the heart of what’s missing in much of today’s Christianity. I felt God wanted to speak something to my heart.

Being a bit of a dork in how my heart longs to experience metaphor, I fixed some coffee in my French press and poured two cups of coffee – one for me, the other for Jesus. I asked him to sit down and have a conversation with me through the article. I even performed a toast.

I told you I was a bit of a dork.

Literally within five seconds of that toast, something happened. I immediately realized that the title Unburdened was not chosen by my publisher as much as it was chosen by God. I liked the title initially, but had eventually come to feel it might be misinterpreted by readers as promising an easy way to once-and-for-all throw off the restraints of sexual sin and no longer struggle in the Christian life with sexual integrity.

That wasn’t what I wanted to communicate.

In essence, one of the primary themes of my upcoming book is about sanctification with regard to sexual integrity – a process for moving in the direction of something we will never fully attain here, but still one we can continue to approximate more and more the closer we grow to Christ.

God showed me that “unburdened” is also about trading our burdensome religious do’s and don’ts (not looking at pornography, not engaging in wrong sexual behavior and so on) for an invitation to walk in real community with Him and with others who can encourage our holistic Christ-likeness through simple but authentic discipleship.

Over time, this perspective teaches us to follow a different path, walking out a new pace that gives us real life at our center. A life that has helped me to look back on my old life and see the utter poverty in my old ways of coping – whether my sexual preoccupation or religious preoccupation. Seen through this lens, wrong sexual behavior and “right” religious behavior served much the same coping function, and neither led me closer to Christ.

This season of book writing has been an interesting journey so far, one that I’m sure to unpack in a future post. Suffice it to say this: God has called me to speak some things into the Christian leaders of my generation and the generation just behind me.

But in true God fashion, He’s teaching me through this process first. As I write, God is teaching me. And maybe that’s His primary point.

It’s always been a central principle of my work with clients – in counseling and now in coaching – that I never want to apply truth to anyone else’s life before I first apply it to my own. Sometimes that application might have already occurred years earlier. But sometimes it occurs in the moment the Holy Spirit gives me something to speak.

This latter occurrence has happened to me more times than I can count. The Holy Spirit gives me insight about how to apply a particular truth for a client. But before I can share it, I realize that same truth also applies to me. When this happens, I take a breath, apply the truth in my mind and heart for a few seconds, and only then share it with my client – with full recognition it’s for me, too.

Someday, I’ll share the story of how this upcoming book came to be in the first place. It’s a funny God thing.

And crazy God things are something I’m getting used to.