It’s been a busy couple of days. Now, back into my musings about being a Christian writer.
Ideally, I want to write inspired by the Holy Spirit. That’s Paul’s definition of what it means to to live the Christian life: “Since we live in the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:26). I say ideally, because just as in life, we tend to break free of the Spirit’s gentle hand and run amuck. It happens in writing, too.
But what does it mean to write inspired by the Holy Spirit?
I think it means that I try not to write anything that he can’t bless and energize, nothing he’s not the source of. For some folks, this might sound pretty tight and narrow. For others with a more liberal view of God that holds creative expression above almost everything, it could mean the whole wide world is open to me. The truth is somewhere in between.
My model author isn’t C.S. Lewis, Ted Dekker, or Frank Peretti. It’s God himself, the author of the best selling, most life changing book of all time. In other words, God has a lot to teach me about writing. Here are some of my thoughts on what that means.
1. God’s story, the Bible, is a story that invites me to live in it, to become part of it. I’m not sure if you’ve ever thought of it this way, but while the Bible is finished, the story it’s telling isn’t. And it’s not just one of those tales that never quite got past chapter nine. Sure, it stops at the end of the Epistles… but then picks up in the book of Revelation and moves like a freight train to the climax and final pages. The amazing thing is this: The “chapter gap” is where I fit. Where my life gets written into the larger story.
So what can I learn from this? That good stories invite you in, suck you into pondering, make it possible for you to be changed by reading them.
2. Incredibly, the Bible doesn’t, as most people think, do all this by chronicling all the right answers. The stories within the larger Story don’t actually read like a Veggie Tales Episode where clear moralizing happens at the end of each segment. There’s no “So you see, children, Noah should not have gotten plastered on his own home brew and passed out buck naked in his tent for his sons to find him.” It just tells you that it happened and then it moves on, forcing you to think, to study, to put ideas together. I think Jesus asked nearly as many questions as he did offer answers during his ministry. Good books do that too. They pose a question or three, then explore the answers without preaching. And sometimes, to ask good questions, you’ve got to get into some pretty deep stuff.
I loved the movie “The Green Mile,” because it asked the best question of all: “What if someone was so innocent, so pure, that they could absorb evil and sickness into themselves?” Sure, the exploration took us into some pretty dark places. Gross places. But look at the conclusion the movie drew for us: “If someone was so pure that they could absorb all sin and darkness into themselves, they’d probably end up dying for it.” Bingo. And the writers did it without a stitch of preachiness.
3. On that note, the Bible, inspired by God, includes sex, rape, war, murder, deception, intrigue, the demons and angels, you name it. And it’s not just the bad guys involved in all that stuff. Even the protagonists get embroiled in all kinds of bawdy badness. So to say that a “Christian” book can’t explore sin and evil is too narrow. In fact, you might even say that a book isn’t truly Christian UNLESS it explores the depths of any particular issue. Christians aren’t the kinds of people that should get in the habit of leaving stones unturned. Now they don’t sprinkle in violence and sin for effect, mind you, or to sell books, or to sound hip and cool. They employ them masterfully as they craft a larger point.
Hmmm. I think I’ve got more to say about this tomorrow.