“Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.”
Some of you might recognize this famous quote from Stephen King. Writers often reference “killing your darlings” during the editing process. The message might sound cruel, but it means to delete the characters/plots/dialog/writing we THINK we love, but it drags our story down. He’s saying to cut the things that’ll make our story better once they’re gone.
If only we could do that in our own lives…
But how do we know which pieces to cut to make our lives better? We don’t want to cut something useful, after all. We don’t want to commit a Freddie Krueger slasher work to our dreams and future.
In 1 Samuel chapter 16, God tells Samuel to stop being depressed over Saul and anoint the next king of Israel. God simply says “I have selected one of Jesse’s sons to be king.” Complication alert: Jesse had 8 sons. Samuel needed to “kill” some of those darlings to find the true king.
When he got to Jesse’s house, he met 7 handsome, strong, and perfect darling sons. They were everything Samuel THOUGHT he wanted.
If I had a dime every time I THOUGHT I knew what I wanted…
When I was single, I made a list of the characteristics I desired in a husband. Some were important: integrity, faith, strong values, kindness, compassion, etc. A few were darlings that weren’t exactly important to a happy marriage. Blue eyes being the most superficial. Once I met a man, I took all the things on my list into account and decided which weren’t as important as I originally thought. In the same token, the important things on the list helped me weed out guys who weren’t perfect fits either.
Samuel had a list in his own head. Tall: check. Nice face: check. Dreamy blue eyes: check. Looks like a king: check. But God told Samuel “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God does not see as man sees, since man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
God’s list was different than Samuel’s. And on the surface, some might have said the “ruddy-faced boy” God chose was a few steps down from the first 7 sons. David wasn’t even invited to be a part of his family gathering. His dad left him to do chores while they feasted with the prophet. Samuel didn’t know Jesse had an 8th son until he asked!
This is something I believe we constantly miss in our lives. We choose a husband/wife, career, job, friend, or decision of any kind simply because we THINK it’s our best option. We fear nothing else will come around because this is all we see. So, we say it’s “good enough” or “I deserve this anyway” when deep down we know we’re meant for more.
I’m not talking about being discontent with what God has given you. I’m talking about settling for less than God intends for your life. Filling your life with events, people, and obstacles God wants you to subtract in order to accept what He desires for you.
Having 1 of David’s brothers on the throne could’ve proven disastrous. I bet Samuel was thankful he abided by God’s list instead of his own when he saw how fantastic of a king David would become. He could’ve made a history-changing mistake if he hadn’t listened to God. If he’d settled for something on his own superficial list.
I know. I know. You’re probably saying “But Samuel was a prophet who verbally heard God’s voice. How am I supposed to know what God wants me to do?!”
Don’t worry: God already told you!
Have you ever heard or said the phrase “God’s working on me concerning ____” or “God’s dealing with me about ____”? It usually pertains to something difficult, life-altering, or a path we don’t want to go down.
For instance, God has been dealing with me about my view of success. My idea of a successful life is changing the lives of multiple people, influencing thousands or millions with my books, and making profits to show these numbers. I see the avenue to this outcome to be by a popular literary agent, having a top 4 publisher, and a six-figure advance paycheck. I’ve committed to this list by e-mailing agents for years. Years. And tailoring my books to what I THINK these people want. Ugh. I fell victim to creating a superficial list of darlings that only matter to the world, not to what God might have in mind. I know this now because God has been “dealing with me” about what’s truly important. How do I know? Because He has been opening doors to other avenues. These avenues might be different than what my list included, but they align with God’s word:
“For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.” Galatians 5:17
“Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” Ephesians 5:17
“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11
I want to be clear that what God has “been dealing with me” about isn’t actually different than my true desires. They are simply guiding me via the path God wants me to go down to achieve them. My true desire is to have my words mean something, and have my books published. The how isn’t up to me, it’s up to God! God’s joy and peace fill us when we are on the right path. Our deepest desires are God-given, and only He knows the best way to achieve them.
In order to see what plans and pathways God has for us, we need to cut the parts we don’t need. The only way to do this is to know what parts we do need: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” In order to trust God, we need to have faith. Faith comes from hearing, and hearing from the word of Christ. (Romans 10:17)
Honestly, I believe that the real reason most people aren’t living to their full potential is because we don’t trust that God has something better in mind. We see missionaries living in poverty, Christians who never make millions, or faith-filled people who lack so much, and fear we’ll have the same “fate”. But are we looking at these people through God’s standards or the world’s view of success? When we look closer, we can see how faith-filled believers live BETTER lives when they surrender to what God intends. When they “kill their darlings” of the world and tailor a new list with God’s worldview.
Love. Joy. Peace. Faithfulness. Patience. Kindness. Gentleness. Meekness. Self-control…. a list that trumps wealth, power, and superficial beauty. It’s a list that means something to our future, and doesn’t fade with age and politics.
David was “a youth with beautiful eyes, and good looking.” He wasn’t ugly by any means. Just different than what Samuel had in mind.
Samuel’s desire was to have a good king, and God showed him the path to get there. What path is God wanting to lead you through?
When we surrender to what God wants, instead of what we THINK we want, we’ll find God has something much MUCH better in mind. Kill your darlings, friends, and see the beautiful story underneath.