Monday, 19 February 2018

Spotting snares, by Veronica Zundel

Yesterday at church a line in a familiar hymn struck me anew. Actually, the line itself wasn't that familiar, because it was in a verse that's rarely sung, and indeed not even printed in most hymnals. The hymn was the well known 'Forth in thy name, O Lord, I go', which in the Anglican hymnal Common Praise has all six original verses, and being a church which never misses out verses, we sang them all (actually, just before the service I heard our churchwarden say 'Verses 1-9' to the organist, and was relieved when I realised she was referring to the sung Psalm, not to a hymn with nine verses!).

Any road, as they say where I come from, this particular rare verse began 'Preserve me from my calling's snare', and it brought me up short. What did it mean? It's a Charles Wesley hymn, so he could have meant his calling as, originally, an Anglican priest. But since it's  for congregational singing, it must have been intended to focus the singers on their own individual callings, whether that be as shoemakers, lawyers or domestic managers (I don't recognize the term 'housewife'...). And for Charles himself, it is quite clear  that his primary calling was as a writer, in particular as a writer of hymns.

Perhaps each and every calling has its own concomitant 'snares'? Then what are the 'snares' of being a writer? I can think of several. The snare of wanting to be famous and acclaimed,  though few of us actually reach that height (even fewer encounter the snare of making a fortune from writing!). The snare, common to more of us, of believing we are dispensing unique wisdom, even the gospel itself - a snare especially close to those who write for the Christian market, whether devotionals, commentaries or 'Christian books' (as a writer of daily Bible notes I frequently want to remind my readers that they should not take my comments as gospel, only the Gospels can be taken as gospel).

Then there is the snare of wanting to count our lowly productions as 'literature', and in my case, that
of wanting to leave behind some writing that will still be read after I have, as we were reminded last Wednesday we will all do, 'returned to dust'. In reality, most of us who blog here are writing ephemera, which may influence many and be passed on to others, but may also not, and will almost certainly not join any canon studied by the studious after our deaths.

Perhaps the most perfidious snare is thinking that we are contributing to the Kingdom of God in some way superior to those who 'only' contribute by being a loving daughter, sister or parent, or by wiping the bottom of a relative with dementia, or indeed cleaning the toilets at church or at work. Writing doesn't actually put us into an exalted class of Christians whose work is more valuable than that of those who serve as dinner ladies or doctors or dog walkers or even deacons.  All members of the body of Christ matter equally, and being a mouthpiece doesn't make you more useful than being a big toenail, as I discovered last year when I lost both big toenails in the course of chemotherapy.

If we are called to be writers, then, let's always remember the snares attendant on that calling, and offer our little output in a spirit of humility and not one of self-importance. And I'm saying that as much to myself as to any of you.

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 BRF's New Daylight. Veronica used to belong to what was, before it closed, the only non-conservative, English speaking Mennonite church in the UK, and is currently playing at being a high Anglican. She also blogs (rather occasionally!) at


  1. A really interesting angle on being a writer! Enjoyed the post, Veronica.

  2. Something for everyone in that post, I think. have to admit to wincing a couple of times!