A listener named Annie sent me an email and asked me where everything at www.mattham.com began. Then she asked me three very challenging questions:
What were your thoughts?
What did you struggle with?
What answers have you found?
After giving it quite a bit of thought, I decided to answer those questions here. In fact, I would challenge each of you to ask yourself these questions. In essence, our thoughts, our struggles, and our perspectives are always leading us somewhere.
Listen or read below.
Can you tell me about those first several months of writing, when you first began blogging?
I never liked waking up early, it was always my Achilles heel. However, when I began writing, I was consumed with it. I couldn’t wait to wake up and pour my heart out onto the page. Quite honestly, it was therapy, as if these things had been bound up inside of me for so long and they were finally breaking free.
I didn’t really know where to begin or what the purpose of all of it was, so I just began writing. And I couldn’t contain it. I blogged every day for a month straight and then a minimum of three days a week for the next year.
I began seeing things differently, seeing life differently. My eyes were keen on perspective and I was seeking it in everything. I asked God for wisdom and I felt like He was letting me have a small taste.
Many authors and writing instructors will tell you about free writing as a practice to unlock and train your subconscious mind. That’s what I tried to do, but I filtered those thoughts through a mindset that was focused on what God was doing in me.
Too often, we only think about the content we produce, our output. I have learned that what God is doing in us should always fuel what He’s doing through us.
It’s funny, when I write, I’m not a different person, but it’s definitely a deeper expression of myself, something that I can’t fully give on the surface in everyday life. Writing gave me a way to filter through the emotions and the prejudices that seemed to rest on the surface.
I found myself dreaming more frequently and my dreams were vivid, as if they were trying to tell me something. It’s odd to admit this, but it’s absolutely true.
As I pressed into the writing, I began to believe and feel that God was present. More present than I had ever felt Him and I felt like He was trying to tell me something, so I listened.
I began journaling as a way to clarify what I felt like I was hearing. In addition to that, I was reading scripture daily. What had, in the past, been an endless struggle was now a pleasure and a habit that I was cultivating.
It was then that I had the experience of almost turning around in my mind, looking back on my life and my writing with clarity that I had never experienced before. In that moment, I began to see that there was something much bigger happening.
What were the thoughts that went through your head?
The idea of writing a book was crazy to me, foreign even. I was a salesman, a business man, an insurance agent for goodness sakes, I wasn’t a writer.
Part of me felt crazy for thinking and feeling the things that I thought and felt, but I couldn’t deny this deeper sense of God’s presence.
I remember one morning—we were on vacation at Wrightsville Beach—waking up at 3:14am with the strongest sense of God trying to tell me something. As I wiped my eyes and stared at the ceiling, I felt like I heard Him say, “People are dying and I need you to write.”
That both sounded and felt absurd to me. In fact, I’ve never mentioned that part of the story publicly before.
How could I help people who were dying?
That morning, I wrote the introduction to my book, Redefine Rich.
From there, I saw that the story was already being told in my writing and I found that some of the things I had already written fit perfectly into a structure of the story that I was supposed to tell.
Telling people that I was a writer was an odd thing. Having people stop me in public was even stranger. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciated it and still do, but it was just weird.
Growing up, I was fairly successful as an athlete. Having played three sports in high school, I was used to the “good game” comments, but this was different. People were saying that I had helped them. That my words gave them hope and encouragement.
Again, that was further affirmation that this was much bigger than me and it drew me closer to God.
When I was diagnosed with cancer during the middle of writing my book, it was then that I realized the fullness of His presence. It was as if He was affirming, “People are dying and I need you to write.”
That hit me harder than I could express in words. It captivated my thinking.
What if I was the one who was dying?
What did you struggle with and how did you overcome?
I began to realize that spiritually, my soul had been impoverished. That all of the years of professional success had left my soul longing for true life. The writing, the relationships, the deeper understanding of God’s presence, it was life to me.
Naturally, I felt torn.
There’s always the challenge of people mocking your passions, people not supporting what you believe, and people wanting to ascribe their opinions to your true heart. In the early days, that ate at me. And if I’m honest, it still bothers me today.
I’d hear whispers that people felt like I was doing this for attention, for popularity, to fight the system, all kinds of things.
I knew though, that if I had helped one person, I could help many. Of course I wanted to do that. But when people didn’t support it or wanted me to go back to my old way of living, it felt personal.
I lived in that tension for a while.
In addition, I didn’t feel like a writer. I saw all of these online personalities who were well-known for writing and had these monstrous platforms. They were the writers, the ones who were really making a difference, not me.
I lived under that shadow for far too long.
Somewhere in the midst of my wrestling with the reality of being cancer free, I finally decided to believe in what God was doing in my life. I didn’t understand it, but I believed it.
The truth is, you’re not responsible for managing other people’s beliefs. The only thing you can manage is yourself.
If you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will.
In addition, comparison is a liar. Trying to be like someone else is the quickest way to average. Excellence is cultivated individually. It took me a while, and a lot of money paying for others opinions, to understand that God had me right where He wanted me and that He was teaching me.
This was about He and I.
What answers did you find?
God is in the details.
I’ve been told of three separate incidences now where my book was given to someone who was going through the tragedy of losing a loved one. In one instance, my book was sitting on the office desk of a man who had just passed away. To think that my book was the last thing he ever read gives me chills.
And it completely affirms what I feel like God said a few years ago, “People are dying and I want you to write.”
I still don’t know what that means, but I tell you because I want you to believe in the whispers that you feel on your heart. Learn to quiet yourself and listen to what God is saying and then, faithfully respond to His call. I promise you that you won’t be able to comprehend the blessings that He will pour out on you.
In the end, I’ve learned that this journey, this book, all of it, is something much bigger than me. In fact, it is something that my life needed. I was headed down a path of spiritual and personal poverty. It took me redefining what it means to be rich in my own life to truly see clearly.
God is, and was, and always will be the only thing that can satisfy the longing of my heart.