f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n: Self-Reflexive Narcissism or Friday Sloth...You Decide

f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n

Friday, March 12, 2004

Self-Reflexive Narcissism or Friday Sloth...You Decide

I thought about talking a little today about Christian autobiography but the two examples I have at home (C.S. Lewis' Suprised by Joy and Shelden Vanauken's A Severe Mercy ) are pretty well-known and nothing I can get too excited about for the moment. So instead, and because it's Friday and this week has been battering, I'm going to post something I've already written. This came in the wake of the publishing of my first novel and was used on my "author" site. It fits today's autobiography theme and it's about writing, so I hope you enjoy.

On Writing and Worship—December 2001

Much as there are two halves to the Christian faith (believe with the heart; confess with the mouth) there seem to be two halves to Christian writing.

The first, the outward ministry aspect, seems to get the most attention. Ask most Christian authors why they write and they’ll explain their desire to write books that glorify God for the encouragement of Christians and spread the gospel for the benefit of non-believers. Like all ministries, it’s grounded on serving others.

The second, more personal, aspect, however, is just as important. And this is the one with which I struggled for a number of years before finally being granted a bit of understanding on what God expected from me with my writing. That insight came in the form of a small verse in Philippians (4:18b) in which Paul thanks the church for the gifts they’ve sent. "They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God," Paul calls them, couching his praise in Old Testament imagery, and its about the best compliment you can imagine.

The thing I struggled with for so long was how to make my writing "pleasing to God." I’d start stories filled with the hope that they’d capture some small measure of genius and soon find myself bogged down at each phrase. Or worse, I’d begin by praying that God would grant me a chapter of words exceptional enough to find favor with Him. Never happened.

What finally changed my approach was a better understanding of praise, worship, sacrifice, and offering. Essentially, the road I’d been on was a dead-end. Nothing I could produce would ever be "worthy" or "acceptable" to Him—unless it was offered through thanks to Jesus. The Philippians offering was not special for any other reason that they did it out of obedience, humility, and love to Jesus. He allowed it to be fragrant, to be pleasing.

And so now I try to approach my writing the same way. God’s blessed me with a love and gift for writing and I want to acknowledge that by offering it back to Him in this small way. [My novel] was a joy to write not because it’s the best book ever or the most important, but because I found myself freed from trying to match all those expectations. It’s the small coin offered by the poor widow—all I had, all I ever needed to give.