It was a decade ago this week that my first book was published. It’s difficult for me to fathom that it has been ten years—five maybe, but ten, no way. It causes me to reflect and to wonder how much I resemble the person that I was a decade ago.
It was around the 20th of October, 2005, that I returned from a two week deployment to Texas with the American Red Cross following hurricanes Rita and Katrina. It wasn’t really a church mission trip but that’s how I framed events in my life back then. I thought of it as a mission trip and my intention was to show folks I encountered as much grace as I was capable—and in some low-keyed way to spread the Good News. It certainly was a journey well outside of my comfort zone. There’s a article about it titled “Masters of Disaster” on my website: http://www.wellbless.com
I got home in the early evening quite weary—and very much looking forward to spending the night in my own bed. But waiting for me at the front door was a large box. It contained 200 copies of The Unwelcome Blessing. I eyed it with some real apprehension. My first thought was that it was very likely an unreadable piece of crap and that I had foolishly wasted money in paying for it to be published. I didn’t have the heart to open the box. I thought that can wait until tomorrow.
The book was birthed from a class on coping with depression that I’d offered 7 or 8 times at my church: Northland, A Church Distributed. The course handouts I put together seemed like the core for a book, and so eventually some friends with computer skills helped me put together a great looking loose-leaf 55-page workbook in 3-ring binders. That adventure in desk-top publishing kind of got me thinking about writing a longer book, and so between 1999 and 2005, The Unwelcome Blessing gradually took form.
Looking back, I think I was more “spiritual” then, but I think I’m a wiser person now. I tend to think of myself as a more “mature” Christian—but probably less focused on the process of sanctification. A close friend has given me feedback to the effect that she sees disturbing changes in me—changes distinctly negative—a darkening in my spirit. She might be right. Sometimes I feel like I’ve given up. Nevertheless, I do know that I know more about the topic of depression and mood disorders than I did a decade ago. But Solomon pointed out three millennia ago that more knowledge doesn’t necessarily make us happier. Maybe I’m going thru the same end-of-life despair that Solomon felt when he wrote Ecclesiastes.
The subtitle of my book is: A Christian Therapist on Depression and Coping, but my focus has gradually become more on overcoming depression than mere coping. Two years ago I wrote a 12-Step workbook based on my book that also employed some concepts from AA and Celebrate Recovery (CR). As far as I can tell trying to overcome mood disorders has never been framed in a 12-step program format before. My intention was to use the new workbook draft as the basis for a 13-week class I’d teach. I printed out a few copies and gave them to folks I thought might be interested in making referrals. I also advertised it briefly on Facebook. After several months of trying to promote the class I had exactly three people express interest. And so I pretty much gave up on a concept that initially struck me as a great idea and one that I’d put more than a year into writing.
Anyway, just this past evening a friend from Celebrate Recovery (CR) said that she was re-reading The Unwelcome Blessing and she gave me all sorts of strokes about how knowledgeable I am—and what a great writer as well. Whether true or not, I’ll gladly accept the praise. It doesn’t feel like I get a lot. Overall, I’ve been somewhat disappointed in the book’s impact. I haven’t kept an accurate count but I would suppose there are about 500 or 600 copies in circulation, and I’ve probably given away 150 of those copies. On the positive side, a therapist friend, Linda Riley, has sold a bunch thru her practice. She done a better job promoting the book than I have. And I’ve had perhaps a dozen or 15 tell me or write me about how much reading the book was a positive for them.
At one time it was in three independent Christian bookstores—now just the bookstore at Northland, and I used to sell several dozen copies a year thru amazon.com. Last year I think I sold three books online. So sales have declined and I’m not sure why—probably something to do with my inability to get it higher on search engine lists.
I never figured that it was going to make me rich or famous. In my wildest dream I saw it being read by a few thousand per year and maybe royalties bringing me in a extra hundred or two a month. Mostly I wanted to share what I knew about overcoming depression. There is a lot of content in the book because its written from three perspectives: clinical, biblical and personal. The personal part comes in because myself and my family have struggled mightily with mood disorders. I’m not very good about blowing my own horn, but I think that because of its three focus format—clinical, biblical, personal—it’s the best book on the market for Christians suffering with depression.
And I know God was in on writing of the book because when I was writing it ideas came to mind so fast I was astounded—and I found relevant verses in scripture that I didn’t even know were there. That had to be the Holy Spirit. And so I think, if God was in on the writing of this book, then why has the response been so discouraging? Maybe there’s more I need to learn. Or maybe the book has reached all that God had ever intended and I just had unrealistic expectations.
Anyway, I think it was the great theologian Yogi Berra who said, “God’s timing is not our timing.”
Well, actually I think he said, “It ain’t over till its over.”