Greater than Fiction
All my best characters come to me fully formed. They are whole beings with attributes and histories and paradigms for understanding their (albeit) fictional worlds. Sometimes, as an author of fiction, I try to be responsible and follow the conventional wisdom of plotting out my story out ahead of time; drawing up outlines, character sketches and so forth. While this process is helpful in getting my mind to run along creative avenues, the details I painstakingly work out rarely end up in the finished manuscript. Why? Because true personality defies planning. Truth is more creative than fiction.
The drawback of operating off of pure inspiration, however, is that my characters rarely do what I tell them to do. They often surprise me with their words and choices; travelling their character arcs at their own paces. However, when I want my daily word count to climb faster, sometimes I’ll put words in their mouths and hustle my plot along by authorial fiat. But when I do, I find that all inspiration--all naturalness--disappears and what was once a vibrant character with all the mysterious affectations of a true personality suddenly grows lifeless as a puppet in my hands whose mouth I am moving with my own fingers.
It is only as I have observed this trend in my own writing that I realize that I have done the same thing to God. Sometimes I put words in His mouth. I anticipate His thoughts and answers; His reasons and so forth. And when I do, God is not God but rather a limp puppet in my hands. A crude idol of my own making who can only say words that I come up with; who has nothing to offer that I cannot offer myself; and has no profound wisdom greater than the thoughts in my own head.
Truth defies manipulation and God is not a marionette who dances to anyone’s tune. But humanity is always coming up with jingles for God to get into the rhythm of--agendas for what we think the proper actions of ‘God’ must be; for explaining away the uncomfortable and mysterious stuff about who He is, or what He has said in His Word that sometimes we just flat out dislike. We have trouble allowing God to be who He is; instead of who we might like Him to be. We become like the child who invites a grown-up to play with her and then proceeds to tell him exactly how he will play, what words he will say and when and where he will say them. But no one wants to be the place holder for someone else’s opinions.
If I’m honest, I think I give God my opinions because sometimes I’m content with the shallow end of the spiritual pool. I don’t really understand what it means to experience His presence because on some level I know that there in the light of Truth all things will be exposed. C.S Lewis wrote in The Problem of Pain, “It is safe to tell the pure in heart that they shall see God, for only the pure in heart want to.” Maybe I don’t long for God’s presence because I fear revelation.
So, instead I try to work for God. Like the speed cleaning that happens ten minutes before company arrives; I rush around in fevered activity so that I can hold my head up when scrutinizing eyes are on me. But even this is a dangerous conceit. It is the presumption of knowing what God Almighty is thinking, as well as agreeing with a pernicious lie in direct conflict with His Word which repeatedly affirms that there is no condemnation for those in Christ.
The great irony of it all is this: if I were enjoying God’s presence, I might actually get to know His character well enough to know when He’s being slandered. I might find that the only thing I can safely presume about Him is that He is always exponentially greater than all of my presumptions. I might find that the condemnation I fear is nothing more than an impotent fiction.
(I think this article was published in the May/June issue of live Magazine. Check them out at www.baptistwomen.com)