If people are going to buy our books, they have to want to be like us. And they have to think that we have something to offer.
And so I think there's a tendency among authors to try to come off as "the expert": the one who has it all together.
Do we do that?
I know I'm tempted to. I don't want to ever admit that sometimes I think my husband is annoying because of course I write marriage books. And would I ever admit to yelling at my kids?
I never used to. But then I began to have this nagging doubt. Are we really glorifying God if we try to come off as if we are perfect--like there is no more growing to do. Is that biblical? After all, in Romans 7 Paul admitted he still had struggles. And I bet those Romans took the rest of his letter more seriously because of it! When he admitted he struggled, just like they did, Paul became more real. And the focus became God, not Paul.
When I speak, I frequently mention the struggles I still have. I tell my testimony, which is full of mistakes that I've made and things I've had to overcome. But I never want to look like I've finished running the race. And there's two reasons for this.
The first is, like Paul, we need to give glory to God, not try to win it for ourselves. We aren't perfect, and God isn't finished with us. If we're scared that people won't buy our books or take us seriously if they see our flaws, then we're really selling a lie anyway. What we write isn't Scripture; it is the words of fallen individuals who are doing their best to love God and reveal Him as He has shown us. But that includes revealing how He is still working in us. That shouldn't mean that we glorify sin; Paul certainly didn't. But it does mean that we need to be humble.
But the other, I think, is even more fundamental.
What is our goal when we write and speak? Is it to transmit knowledge, or is it to see lives transformed?
God works best when we are real and when we are vulnerable. Honesty is where He shines through. Haven't you been touched more by a speaker's tears, or by listening to the struggles of those that you respect and admire? It shows that they struggle with the same things you do, and if they struggle in the same way, then it's OKAY to listen to them. Their message is relevant.
Too often I think people tune our messages out because they think, "I could never do that", or "my family will never be that perfect". Why listen, then? It may be interesting to read, but they're not going to change what they do because they don't see how our message can impact their own families. We're too far above them. (I talk about how this relates to speaking ministries here!)
Now my fellow authors know that's the farthest thing from the truth, but I think that's what people often feel. When we can be vulnerable, and expose where God is still working, then we invite people to journey with us. We're not on a separate road; we are fellow travelers.
So for my author friends, don't be afraid to admit your mistakes. And for our readers, know that we struggle, too. Forgive us for it, open your arms to us, and encourage us back! For that, I think, is what God truly desires.
Sheila Wray Gregoire is the author of four books, including How Big Is Your Umbrella: Weathering the Storms of Life. She blogs at http://tolovehonorandvacuum.blogspot.com.