Saturday, May 15, 2010

Unfinished People

Have you ever gotten a card or drawing from a preschool child? Maybe you got one last week for Mother’s Day. You know the kind—huge, round heads sprouting arms and legs, but no torso. Googley eyes and a few stick-straight hairs springing from the top. You know they are supposed to be people, but well, they’re sort of lacking--unfinished.

Recently I came across a book written by Ruth Gay discussing the Eastern European Jews that poured into New York during the last century. Many of them were young teenagers—merely children when they left their homeland. When they arrived in the New World, they were thrust into adulthood, ready or not. Gay describes them as “young, single, unskilled, uneducated, and boundlessly optimistic.” She called them “Unfinished People” and described their dilemma. They were “unfinished” because they hadn’t had a chance to be fully steeped in their native culture, yet they were still young enough to embrace the new culture in which they found themselves. They were a hybrid generation.

It struck me how much like these “unfinished” people I am in the beginning stages of my writing journey. I’m not really “young” in years anymore, but as far as my writing career, I’m a mere child. I’m a married woman, but writing is a solitary career much of the time and my failure or success depends largely on me and me alone. In that, I’m “single”. I possess more skills and knowledge about writing than I did last year at this time, but compared to the seasoned pros I’m “unskilled” and “uneducated”. But, like those immigrants who traveled wide-eyed through the shadow of Lady Liberty, I’m “boundlessly optimistic”. I think, “I can do this.” I say, “I will learn this.” I repeat, like Dory in Finding Nemo, “Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming. Just keep swimming.”

I love when I hear the published authors on the ACFW email loop say they aren’t done learning yet. When they remind us that none of us really ever “arrive” as writers. When they explain that the industry changes and each one of us, pubbed and unpubbed alike, must keep learning and changing right along with it. When the grandmothers-types ask for help with their “technology” so they can “tweet” and “friend” and get “LinkedIn”. That encourages me and makes me thankful for humble mentors who never quit striving to be better; never cease chasing perfection.

I’m also thankful that, although we will never be complete as writers, we have the hope of perfection concerning our faith. No, not in this world, but in the next because we are given this promise in the book of Philippians, “…being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus”. We may ever be “finished” as writers, but God promises us that one day we will be complete.

It delights me that the God who created us, and will some day finish the work he started in us, doesn’t compare Himself to a doctor, or a scientist, or an inventor. No, when He tells us some day we will be perfect, He speaks our language, saying, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith". Take joy, my friends—He won’t leave us “unfinished people”.

Nikki Studebaker Barcus


  1. Wonderful thoughts, Nikki. Thanks for sharing!

  2. So true, Nikki! I have to learn not to be frustrated at being unfinished!

  3. Oh, I like that visual of being an unfinished stick person! Yes, my Author is at work on me, and I WILL be brought to completion. And maybe, on a smaller scale (much smaller), I will bring my work as an author to completion too. Thanks, Nikki!

  4. Isn't it nice to know that we are also considered "works in progress"? Makes it a little easier to put one stick foot in front of the other--both in our writing and in our faith journey.