At sixteen, I felt a call to speak. The idea terrified me, as I was still ignorant of a lot of social cues and had a habit of carrying around printed sheets of jokes and interesting facts that I could refer to during conversations. (At least I had the sense to try to be sneaky about this. It's evidence that I had the littlest bit of decorum.) I wasn't about to capture the attention of more than a few people at once on purpose.
I do things now that were so out of sixteen-year-old me's comfort zone that they seemed impossible. I teach kids; I've taught adults; I preach and speak and disciple. The mere thought of any of these actions would have had me panicking internally, inwardly screaming that I couldn't do it, that I wasn't good enough. Half my life later, I might still get butterflies in my stomach, but I have the fortitude to press through my feelings of inadequacy.
Even still, I don't call myself a teacher or preacher or speaker. I have done these things before, but they are more accurately described as the form that my primary gift has taken, rather than the gift itself. More than anything, I believe God has created and called me to be a storyteller. When I wasn't following God, this took the form of being such a good liar that I would often have to retrace the path of lies I had laid down to figure out what the truth even was in the first place.
Once I was determined to use this gift for good, I started to write allegorical plays and short stories because it was easier than being open about the actual events that inspired them. As I began to teach and disciple, God started to draw out the truth of my experiences for specific situations and lessons. Then I shared my testimony of abuse and healing with the youth group and heard that good things came from that. It was one of the hardest things I had ever done, but that just made it easier to continue to open up about my experiences and God's providence in them.
Along the line, I convinced myself that I no longer needed to write fiction: I had only been using it as a crutch, as a way of telling the story of my life without actually owning up to it. Now, I would be completely truthful, completely open. Now, I would be better.
It seems that I haven't completely overcome the self-delusion of my past: that was just another story I was telling myself. The truth was that I was afraid. Afraid that the stories that had been swirling and formulating in my head for years would be rejected, wouldn't be good enough, wouldn't be enjoyable. Afraid that the newer ideas I had were too derivative or hokey. Afraid that I would never measure up to my favorite writers, that my best works would pale in comparison to their worst. It was the same fear that had made everything I do now seem impossible half my life ago: that my best would never be good enough.
I have been a storyteller that has been willfully ignoring an entire facet of his calling. I told myself that fiction wasn't needed, but even Jesus taught in parables, stories that were technically fictional but still conveyed truth. I told myself that lie because I believed another. The truth is that I am not called to be C.S. Lewis or Ray Bradbury, George Orwell or Brandon Sanderson. I am called to be me, to produce what I can produce, to tell the stories that I have to tell.
It's time for me to start telling them.