ACW

ACW

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Forever fruit?


32 years ago, in 1983, the then Christian Woman magazine (now Woman Alive) entered my regular column into the inaugural Magazine Publishing Awards. I had only been writing it for a year or so, and was unaware that I had been entered until the editor contacted me to tell me I was in the finals, with an award ceremony to be held at a trendy former brewery. I went along in my best daytime outfit, not expecting more than a free lunch, and was extremely surprised to win  Best Specialist Columnist, pushing columnists from the Mail on Sunday into second and third places. It was a very exciting moment.

The trophy, made of some unidentifiable fake white marble, was a sculpted hand holding an apple (pictured here, rather the worse for wear - as am I - and lacking its leaves which fell off some time ago). It was rather heavy, and I had come by Underground. Lugging it home on the Tube, I thought I'd just refresh my memory on the reading that morning in Daily Light, which was in my handbag. Imagine my amusement when I read: 'You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last'. I was certainly bearing a piece of fruit!

It looked as though after this my work would really take off. But either I omitted to capitalize on it, or I chose the wrong things to write, or my recurrent depression hampered me... at any rate, the decades have gone by, and though I have edited, written or contributed to a dozen or so books, everything but the most recent book is now out of print, and my name is still  unknown beyond a narrow circle of Christians. What went wrong? Did I fail to abide in the Vine? Was I too controversial, or too much out on an ecclesiastical limb, or just too boring?

Whatever the reason, that  'fruit', which I imagined as glorious writing success, has failed to last. I feel like Emily Dickinson in her poem, 'I'm Nobody - who are you?'. Most of what I write is ephemeral, not lasting fruit.

But what if that wasn't the sort of fruit that was meant? What if, when it comes to harvest, my books, columns, sermons won't weigh anything? What if the basket will instead be filled with a kind act I did here, a word in season I spoke there, a donation I gave to a charity - all things I have completely forgotten, but which meant more to God than any published book? Or, indeed, what if it was enough that a particular book or Bible note or column spoke to just one person, to encourage or inspire or heal them, and mega-sales were entirely unnecessary?

It may be a cop out. But I think we cannot equate fruitfulness with writing success or fame. Only God can know where we have really been fruitful. Meanwhile, I'll just keep writing.

Veronica Zundel is a freelance writer whose latest book is Everything I know about God, I've learned from being a parent (BRF 2013). She also writes a column for Woman Alive magazine, and Bible notes for New Daylight. Veronica belongs to the only non-conservative, English speaking Mennonite church in the UK, and also blogs at reversedstandard.com

7 comments:

  1. I love this Veronica and I absolutely agree with you. I think we will have some surprises in eternity - things we were sure would have earned us an acolade will be nowhere to be seen, and things we had completely forgotten about will turn out to have eternal value. I for one have been blessed by your writing for a very long time.

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  2. And endlessly infinite opportunity to pursue all our unfulfilled or even untried created talents, which is one of the major frustrations of this finite limited existence.

    1Corinthians 15:58
    "So, my dear brothers and sisters, stand strong. Don’t let anything change you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord.
    You know that your work in the Lord is never wasted."

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  3. I completely agree with you, Veronica, about what God will and won't see as important. And I can assure you that some of the articles I've read from you have made a deep and lasting impression. Yours is a distinctive, unique voice which must have impacted many people over the years. Keep at it!

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  4. I remember seeing your name in Woman Alive when I used to write for it as a complete rookie and you felt to me like one of the 'pros' I wanted to be like! I agree with you, though. I know I use my writing abilities day by day in teaching English and using language to make my lessons engaging (or try to ...) So, if I don't get anything else published, ever, there will still have been 'fruit' in their GCSE and A-level results! That's some reassurance.

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  5. Great post Veronica. I guess we can all get distracted from the most important reasons why we do things - work/write etc - when more worldly aspirations become dominant. And it can be so insidious. Thank you for your wise words...

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  6. Yes indeed. And of course, the words you wrote that were ephemeral on the page, but may have settled and borne fruit in someone else.

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  7. "Just one person" that is my ministry reminder every day - It's funny how we measure success because to have a regular coloumn, published devotions and a book would look like success to me.

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