By Marlene Molewyk
“I’m sick and tired of working on this stupid manuscript!” I groaned in frustration. My book proposal had just been rejected again, and I felt like giving up on writing altogether. What’s the point of raising my voice through my writing, I wondered, if nobody thinks my words are worth reading? At that moment, my emotions took over. Cackling fiendishly, they dragged me over to a roller coaster, shoved me in a seat, and belted me in for a wild ride. I knew this emotional roller coaster well—I’ve ridden it far too many times in the past, and I’ve always hated how crummy it makes me feel.
But something different happened this time around. Just as the roller coaster was about to plunge me into an abyss of self-pity, a surge of defiance shot through my heart and mind. And right then and there, I decided that my emotions weren’t going to overpower me again. So I sat up straight, flung off the seat belt, and shouted two words that immediately brought the roller coaster to a screeching halt: “Marco Polo!”
Yes, you read that right. Marco Polo. Explaining the significance of these two words requires a brief, but interesting lesson in world history.
Marco Polo was born in Venice, Italy, in 1254. When he was fifteen years old, his father and uncle took him on an expedition that led through central Asia and eventually to northern China, which was controlled by Mongol ruler Kublai Khan. Polo earned Khan’s favor and spent many years working for him, in various government jobs that involved extensive travel throughout China and other parts of Asia.
Over twenty years later, Polo returned to Italy and co-wrote a book entitled The Travels of Marco Polo. His book was read widely throughout Europe, and its detailed descriptions of central Asian and Chinese treasures inspired several generations of explorers to risk their lives searching for those very same riches. One such explorer was Christopher Columbus, who read The Travels of Marco Polo almost two hundred years after it was written. Polo’s book actually inspired Columbus to cross the Atlantic Ocean in 1492, and according to some accounts, Columbus might have even brought a copy of the book with him, on his first voyage to the New World!
Actual pages from Christopher Columbus’ copy of
The Travels of Marco Polo. Columbus’
handwritten notes are in the margin.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
The incredible long-term impact of Polo’s book is an excellent testimony regarding the power of the written word–to influence, inspire, and change the world. It’s also a good reminder to stay focused on God’s big picture purpose for our words, rather than our fragile egos when we’re writing. Here’s what I mean by this:
Our motivations for writing can subtly start to become all about gaining personal glory, feeling important in the eyes of the world, and impressing others with our wisdom and insight. But there’s a far better motivation for our writing. It involves being faithful stewards of the words God has entrusted to us, and using them in the same way that Marco Polo used his. Polo’s words described the treasures of earthly kingdoms and how to find them, and in the same way, we are called to describe the treasures of God’s heavenly kingdom, as well as how to find them.
That’s God’s big picture purpose for our words—instead of serving as ego-strokers and determiners of our self worth, our words should serve as spiritual travel guides that:
- map out enemy territory, as well as escape routes that lead to God’s kingdom.
- map out paths that lead to greater levels of spiritual freedom within God’s kingdom.
- explain how and where to find spiritual treasures along the way.
This is a high calling for our words! And who knows, maybe something that you or I persevere in writing today will still be around in two hundred years, inspiring future generations of spiritual treasure hunters to go searching after the riches of God’s kingdom. I believe this is a legacy that’s worth pursuing.
So that’s why the words “Marco Polo” were so effective at bringing my emotional roller coaster ride to a screeching halt. Just thinking about Marco Polo reminds me of the enormous power of the written word, as well as the fact that my writing isn’t all about me. This motivates me to brush off rejection, pick up my bruised ego, and persevere in raising my voice through my writing.
Marlene Molewyk is a writer, speaker, homeschooling mom, and history buff whose career has included work as a broadcast journalist, a production assistant for The Oprah Winfrey Show, and a corporate public relations manager. Her writing has appeared in Liberti and Practical Homeschooling magazines, and she blogs at marlenemolewyk.blogspot.com.