I was in a church meeting Saturday night, and for once, I was alone. Honey Bear was home, taking care of our two rambunctious gremlins so I could enjoy the meeting, and the stillness was…enlightening. A theme emerged for me pretty quickly (a theme usually does when I’m really paying attention), and that theme was learning how to endure trials with grace and perseverance.
I’ve been querying Bob for almost ten months now (although I spent five of those months revising the manuscript in two separate rounds), and the whole process has started to feel more like a trial than anything else. But even as I write this, I realize how trivial that sounds. There are much worse things to deal with, including several I’ve dealt with already, so if this is the hardest life experience I’m facing at the moment, then maybe life isn’t all that bad. Still, I think the lessons I learned that night apply to any challenge, large or small, literary or otherwise.
The talk that made the biggest impact on me was about overcoming adversity through the atonement of Jesus Christ and was given by a friend of mine named Laurie. She is, in a word, remarkable, and I thought that even before she lost her husband of thirty years to a rare kidney disease in January. The intervening months have proven just how right I was.
One of the highlights of her talk was a quote she shared from a man named Orson F. Whitney. I’ve heard the quote before, but it took on added meaning in the context of Laurie’s talk. After hearing it for the first time not long after his diagnosis, her husband made it his battle cry over the long months and even years of his illness.
From Orson F. Whitney: “No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude, and humility. All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy to be called the children of God…and it is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we come here to acquire.”
That one line in particular--“All that we suffer…makes us more tender and charitable”--stuck out to me, perhaps because I’ve recently seen the truth of it in my life. Back in May, Honey Bear and I found out that we were pregnant, and a month or two ago, we started sharing our good news with our friends and family. When we got back from our month-long trip to
But then Stephanie walked into the room. I knew she and her husband had been trying to get pregnant and had suffered several miscarriages over the last year, and right then, I knew I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t accept everyone’s congratulations--including, I imagined, Stephanie’s--in such a public way, because I knew exactly how it would make her feel.
A few months after Honey Bear and I were married, we experienced a miscarriage. It was and remains the single worst day of my life. It happened on a Wednesday, I remember, and the following Sunday, I had to listen to a man describe the recent birth of his first child in excruciating detail. He wrapped up his remarks by saying something like, “I am so grateful that God has given us this child, that He trusts us enough to send this choice spirit to our home.”
As soon as he said that, a dark voice at the back of my brain couldn’t help but whisper, “Well, if that’s the case, He must not trust you with one.” It took me a long time to realize how wrong that kind of thinking was.
In the end, I learned Orson F. Whitney was absolutely right. Our trials do make us “more tender and charitable,” more apt to put others’ feelings above our own. They teach us how to see things from another person’s perspective. In short, they teach us how to be more like Jesus Christ.
(Which isn’t to say I don’t think good news should be shared, because I absolutely think it should. I’m just saying we should be mindful of other people’s feelings and not say stupid things that have a high likelihood of wounding someone else.)
I don’t know why some people can have children so easily and why some people, like my parents, can’t have them at all. I don’t know why some people only have to send out sixteen queries to get an agent and why some people have to send out what seems like six hundred. I don’t know why some people land a book deal in the first couple of months and why some people have to write three manuscripts and endure the grueling submission process for years and years and years. But maybe those aren’t the important questions, anyway. Maybe the important questions are, "What can I learn from this experience?" and "How will I let this trial change me?"
So how have I let querying change me? I’m afraid I’ve let it turn me into hopeless, dejected Krista more times than I’d like to admit. (I don’t let hopeless, dejected Krista blog, mind you, so you probably haven’t met her. Unless you’re one of my beta readers. She does hijack my e-mail account and whine to them sometimes…) I’d rather let it make me a better writer and a better person on the whole--more thoughtful and patient, more inclined to look on the bright side of things.
I'm not there yet (obviously), but that meeting Saturday night made me want to get there someday. It made me want to try harder, to focus more on the positive. Because life and even querying can be wonderfully, splendidly beautiful--but only if we let them.