By Terri Gillespie
“When you make for Me an altar of stones, do not build it from cut stone, for if you use a tool on it, you will have profaned it.” Exodus 20:25, TLV
Despite my smile and enthusiastic congratulations, the familiar funk of envy settled on me like slime. That adage to “fake it until you make it” was not working. Once again, I was left behind while my friends and critique partners moved forward with contracts and contest wins.
What was I doing wrong? Why weren’t my book “offerings” acceptable?
Perhaps if I imitated my successful friends? Wrote like them? Sounded like them? Looked like them? Would my offerings then be acceptable?
In today’s passage, the children of Israel had escaped the bondage of slavery after 400 years. Those who were grateful wanted to find ways to show that gratitude to their Redeemer. While Moses, Aaron, and the tribe of Levi were managing the building of the Tabernacle and all its implements of sacrifice and worship (Exodus 25ff), the people could build their own altars for their offerings.
In the previous verse, God tells His people that He is content with a simple earthen altar:
“You are to make an altar of earth for Me, and there you will sacrifice your burnt offerings, your fellowship offerings—your sheep and your cattle. In every place where I cause My name to be mentioned I will come to you and bless you.” Exodus 20:24 TLV
The children of Israel did not have to make a fancy stone altar to show their gratitude and/or be right with God. However, if they wanted to, then they simply collected the rocks around them—of which there were plenty in the Sinai—and assembled an altar.
Guess what? That meant Shlomo’s altar would look different than Uri’s or Judah’s—each altar would be unique.
Uniqueness has little to do with craft. The altar must still be functional. In turn, as writers, we must learn how to write. Take our time to do our due diligence with classes, critiques, and edits.
Uniqueness means I don’t adapt my natural “stones”—my gifts—to be someone else’s stones. I don’t trim my “stones” in order to make my altar look like theirs. I don’t copy.
Even if we completely replicate another’s “altar” God is not fooled. He won’t recognize the sacrifice as ours.
Isn’t the point of our writing, all about using the voice and passion He has given us? The stories He has given us. Whatever our gifts, they are individually formed by God—which means our offerings will be distinctly different from others.
Our pasts, our challenges, our testimonies are part of the composite of every stone. Therefore, our gifts will always be different than those of someone else. That’s the beauty of how God sees us and how we fit into the Greater Altar as one Body.
It was only within the last few years that I realized the “stones” God provided for my altar were the stones He wanted me to use. He oversees my gifts and anticipates my offerings.
Our altars will look however they are going to look, based on the stones He provides for us. Altering the stones corrupts our offerings. Whatever He has provided for us, He wants us to use to give our offerings to Him.
Not sure what your stones are? Know that you—your earthly being—is a good enough altar for our Heavenly Father. He loves the sweet surrender of our hearts as the greatest offering—our worship, praise, and gratitude. That’s the best place to begin.
Eventually, you will notice the stones. Gather them and build the altar that is exclusively yours. Then, give the Lord your offerings.Use your own stones so the Lord recognizes your offering. @TerriGMavens #ACFWBlogs #writetip #critiques #ACFWCommunity Click To Tweet Do you envy another’s altar? @TerriGMavens #ACFWBlogs #writetip #critiques #ACFWCommunity Click To Tweet
Terri Gillespie is VP of the NWGA ACFW chapter and uses her own stones. Her first traditionally published book was Making Eye Contact with God—A Weekly Women’s Devotional. She has won various fiction awards and has a new release, Sweet Rivalry due September 2021. Member: ACFW, CAN, AWSA.