How I Accidentally Wrote a Book

Added about 5 years ago by Sarah Parkinson

GUEST BLOG: Sarah Parkinson’s Searching for a Silent God has just been published by Sacristy Press, but here she explains how this book came about almost by accident at a time when God’s silence had become unendurably long…

I discovered the writing habit quite early in my teenage years, but I didn’t begin to keep a journal until my early twenties. That was when God’s call finally broke through my defences, and I was able to say yes to a relationship with him. Following that event, I quickly recognised the value of a space where I could be honest about the struggles that faith can present, and the journaling habit began.

A couple of decades on, and I have quite a collection of filled-in notebooks, full of scribbles about my attempts to grapple with what faith in Jesus means in everyday life. Some notebooks are packed to the brim, and stuffed with tickets from significant events, cards and letters from individuals who have helped nurture my growth in faith, and any other evidence I have of God’s grace shaping and sustaining me throughout life’s challenges. Others end abruptly, perhaps when a life event caused disruption (such as the birth of my third child) and there are blank pages that illustrate the frailty of creative space when certain milestones overwhelm us.

A time came when God fell silent, and the constant sense of nurture and growth that I had known fell by the wayside. I struggled through it for a few years, still journaling, but not feeling as though it was helping me to find a way forward in the way that it had before. I became less able to trust the sanctity and confidentiality of the journaling space—less able to trust myself to tell the truth, because it was so clear to me that I did not know it.

At a point when it felt as though God’s silence had become unendurably long, my husband suggested that I write about it—not just in bits and scraps, as may appear in my journal, but in story form. One consequence of that silence was a sense of creative suffocation, and it had become difficult to write anything that felt as though it had life in it. However, it seemed to me that there would be no harm in trying, and so I began.

Once I had started, I discovered I had finally found a means of creative expression that I could engage with. I quickly realised that the story of God’s silence didn’t make a lot of sense without the context of how fruitful our relationship had been prior to his absence. I decided, therefore, to delve further back to the beginning, and write out the whole story. It was at this point I began to realise what an invaluable resource my historical journals are. Reading back over them was a journey in itself, that helped me to piece together my story over the entire arc of my experience of faith in God.

What came out of that writing experience was essentially an extended journal entry. I wasn’t writing it for anyone in particular except me, and so it was as honest as anything I had written in my notebooks. I didn’t realise until it was nearly finished that I would feel capable of submitting it for publication; it still astonishes me that for someone used to being intensely private, I have felt so sure about making this work available for a public audience. I can only trust that God is at the centre of this process, and that for anyone who knows, or has known that terrible sense of God’s departure, there is comfort in an experience shared. Above all, I will be delighted if my story helps others to find what I could not for a long time: hope in a God who guides us through the darkness and out the other side.

Sarah Parkinson is the author of Searching for a Silent God, a thoughtful and engaging companion for all who experience times of spiritual crisis. In this book, Sarah describes her experience of a time when God, on whose presence she had always relied, suddenly seemed to be absent from her life. Get your copy today.

Photo: Andrea Simpson

Please note: Sacristy Press does not necessarily share or endorse the views of the guest contributors to this blog.

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