Perfect Until Proven Otherwise

I was a perfect husband until I met my wife. I was a wonderful dad until we had a son. I was a talented writer until I started typing.

Funny how we’re great at things until we actually do them.

Plenty of sand. So where's the beach?

When I started writing seriously several summers back, I finished my first novel in early June then contacted a successful writer friend about my literary firstborn. I figured, once Susie was duly impressed and on board, I’d be basking in the Bahamas by Christmas in celebration of hitting the NY Times bestseller list (“Open another bottle of bubbly, daaahling”).

Susie perused my opening chapter, marked it up in red, and sent it back to me with a lot of words of which I remember only one—“potential.” Loosely translated, she said, “Maybe your baby won’t be so ugly when she grows up.”


I did not sleep well that night. Or the next. Or the next.

In my waking moments, I kept thinking, “I suck as a writer.”

In Robert’s Rules of Writing, author Robert Masello opened chapter 8, “Take the Prozac,” with this line. “Legend has it that once, long ago, in a land far away, there was a writer who wasn’t depressed.”

Now, not only do people dream about being perfect spouses, wonderful parents, or talented whatevers, but we carry our fantasies over into our church life. Only in this case, the fantasy isn’t about us. It’s about the community of faith where we participate.

Here are some lessons we can certainly use in the church.

1) Dreams don’t make demands of us, just other people. Note that I had a dream but my dream depended more on my friend Susie than it did on me. What I mean is this. All Susie needed to do was say, “This is great writing,” and I’d be fixed for life. Now how hard would that be for her? Four simple words—count them—to note how duly impressed she was with my enormous writing talent.

We often approach church life with that attitude. If the preacher preaches well, the music moves me, and the congregation meets my expectations, I’ll be duly impressed and honor them with my presence.

If that’s how you approach being the church, I have a single word for you—radjmichtalis. That’s Russian for, “You’re dreaming, big boy.”

2) Real life knocks the pixie dust off our dreams (and usually us off our feet). As I noted earlier, I lost sleep when the reality of my writing dream set in. Those few days afterwards were some of the darkest in my life. I’ve had bad things happen in my life but seeing a dream die ranks high on the disaster list.

Church life, what Christians do to other Christians, is kind of like sand in your swim trunks. Uncomfortable. The beach looked a lot better in the brochure. The church looked a lot better before I knew anyone there.

I imagine you’ve heard we just need to be a New Testament church. Well, we don’t have all those letters in the New Testament because people got along swell back then. The Bible doesn’t gloss over the reality that people, both in the 1st century and in the present, rub one another the wrong way.

3) You always have two choices when the dream bursts (and it will).



I chose to continue writing. I choose to continue to get sand in my shorts (I mean participate in the faith community called church), because if I quit, I don’t grow.

Question: What were you really good at until you actually tried it?

Follow this link to a related article on Christian community by Linda Rondeau, “Who Put the Vinegar in the Salt?”

About tnealtarver

I've traveled and spoken around the world but always love to come home. There I eat exceptional meals, drink coffee to my heart's content, and get loved like nowhere else on earth. I believe a community centered in Christ should be all that and so much more.
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