Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Being a Living Mystery

I learned a new word yesterday from a reader commenting on Latayne's post.  Prevenient grace. I guess it's more of a term than a word. Anywho, it's a term for the many ways that God's grace comes into our lives before we come to know Him. He pursues us.  He initiates the relationship when we're powerless to do so.  Yowza, I love it! 

I recognized that He did this for us, I just didn't know the terminology for it. If we could look back at the orchestration that led to 'meeting' God, it would blind us with tears. He didn't have to hit us over the head with His love or write it in the sky.

I have heard Latayne's topic discussed among writers who are confused about the degree of directness they should use.  They have a great story that doesn't fit the mold.  Perhaps it's allegory or science fiction/fantasy. As Christian writers, are we obligated to explain?  This dilemma may also be true in our everyday lives, especially for those of us who work in public education or for the government and walk a fine line in displaying our Christianity. We learn to project Christ on a more subtle level as opportunities arise.   Listen to this quote by Cardinal Suhard in Madeleine L'Engle's Walking on Water:

"To be a witness does not consist in engaging in propaganda, nor even in stirring people up, but in being a living mystery.  It means to live in such a way that one's life would not make sense if God did not exist."

 I know it is a concern among Christian publishers that their books leave no doubt as to being Christ-centered.  They are charged with proclaiming Christ and take it very seriously.  This, of course, is also the goal of Christian authors.  Some editors have voiced that not all readers 'get it' when it comes to implied faith and want a more overt application.

Knowing this, does it change the types of stories you choose to write? We'd love to hear from you.


Wendy Paine Miller said...

And there it is..."one's life would not make sense if God did not exist."


All I can say is I don't shove God into my work. I believe because He's changed everything about my life He's bound to show up in my words, but I don't jam Him in. Just not the way I roll.

Can't tell you how grateful I am for God's prevenient grace!

Kathleen Popa said...

Similar to my comment on Monday's post: Maybe it's a good, clarifying thing when we are forced to translate what we mean to say into the medium of concrete action.

One of my favorite passages of literature is in C.S. Lewis' novel, Out Of The Silent Planet, in which one man must translate another man's high sounding oration into a language devoid of abstraction. If you haven't read it, you can get the gist of it here:

C.S. Lewis just keeps coming up in these talks, doesn't he?

Cherry Odelberg said...

Does it change the types of stories you choose to write?
No. I can but write what comes out and wait in patience to find soulmate agent, editor or publisher who agrees. Implied faith, prevenient grace, love whatever.

Cherry Odelberg said...

Hurrah for C.S. Lewis. Had I not been well schooled, drilled and studied in Bible before encountering his books, I would not have noticed or "gotten" so much. But oh, the pure bliss of reading the same truths in another universe without cliche or shame, free from the baggage of legalism.

Camille Eide said...

As a novelist, I've struggled with the idea of tacking on the amount of faith or gospel message I suspect a publisher or bookstore buyer would want simply so everyone is clear about what shelf the book belongs on. I totally understand this motive and need. And yet I know God is able to do SO much more in leading people to his grace and bring glory to himself than to keep reusing the same sticky note message (which I fear becomes a meaningless memo when used again and again).

I haven't sold a book to a publisher yet (yet I've come soooo close enough times that I've grown dizzy from the rarity of allowing my run hopes to run that high) so I only speculate. What I think as a writer is our faith is a mystery as you said, even to us, and telling our story through whatever medium should be an organic experience as much for ourselves as it is for the reader----it's sincere, alive and infused with the living power of its Author. I know, makes for muddled lines of genre, and I don't know what to do about that. Maybe this dawning age of shelf-less book-selling comes just in time for us to break free of the constrictions of what those old dusty shelves tell us we may or may not write.

Or maybe I just need more coffee this morning.

I've been asking God lately for direction on what to write (after a very promising pub board went south). I have been trying for months to come up with the next novel. Yet... I've woken the last 2 mornings with totally different kind of book idea clearly in mind, an idea much clearer than what usually lurks in there. I'm slow. It finally hit me today in a "duh" moment and it's sinking in & coming into focus. It's something that began to germinate in my heart decades ago. Maybe that last hope-crushing storm did something to help that old dormant seed finally break the surface.

Sorry. Thanks NM for the discussion & the ongoing challenge & inspiration to be excellent & authentic in all we do.

Debbie Fuller Thomas said...

Camille, so sorry to hear about the pub board's decision. It's not just a roller coaster but one at high altitude where the air is thin. But many writers don't get even that far, so try to take as much encouragement from it as possible. I hope your new idea blossoms!
Cherry, I hear ya about C.S Lewis. I didn't 'get it' either and I was a Christian when I read Narnia (how embarrassing). Well, I was also young at the time. I have since been able to explain some of it to friends who weren't Christians and it certainly left them thinking deeply.
Katy, Out of the Silent Planet is now on my teetering TBR pile.
Wendy, if writer had a 10 commandments, the first one should be 'Thou shalt not shove God into your writing. ' :)

Sharon K. Souza said...

Debbie, this is another great post. I love the quote from Walking on Water. We really are living epistles, and as such, our stories and the way we tell them will be as individual and varied as we are. I so agree with Camille: "telling our story ... should be an organic experience." And because of that, the degree to which we share Gospel truths, in our lives as well as our stories, will fill the spectrum. But it must be organic, never forced.

S. F. Foxfire said...


Debbie, just read "Out of the Silent Planet" and found it severely refreshing. :D

Thinking . . . what happens to me when I write is that God tends to spill Himself onto the page past my bidding. I don't plan to put anything in, and BAM! There it is. For example, I have a character who shunned God (the High One) for all her life, but once she saw how her friends were changing due to His grace, she wondered and pondered and came to her own conclusion--past my accord--that she needed Him; despite the treachery she was committing that very moment.

I don't know how it happens. Maybe it's a grace thing. ;D But He gets there no matter what, so I just let Him. ha ha

Cherry Odelberg said...

I love that, "Just let him in!"
Everyone, please don't stop with "Out of the Silent Planet," Perelandra is a treat!