Landing on a Dime

Recently, I was over at my friend Kristin’s Minnesota house (she spends most of the year at her Kenya house), discussing writing and Christian art.

Kristin is lovely and brilliant and so terribly wise– and she gets me, gets my heart.  She knows how the desperate cry of my heart is to honor God in my writing through creating a book that is excellent and thought-provoking while avoiding mawkish sentimentality and all cliches, Christian or otherwise.

It’s so hard.

dime“I feel like I’m parachuting,” I told her, “and trying to land on a spot the size of dime.”

That is how precise my goal seems.  I want my stories to be just offensive enough to disturb someone’s thoughts– but not so offensive that they’ll put down the book.  I want them to be full of mystery– but with enough clues to find the answer.  I want them to reflect the trials, confusions, and joys of my deepest heart– but in a way that no one will find cheesy or trite.

Again: the size of a dime.

I’m not sure that I am a good enough writer to hit such a bullseye (in fact I feel quite confident that I am not).  So, what then?  Do I stop writing?

Of course not.  Not when that’s the goal of my life and the best worship I can offer.

I tell myself, You’re 31.  Keep writing and you’ll be better at 32 … 33 … 34.  But I am a perfectionist, an achiever, a go-getter, and terribly impatient.  I get frustrated with myself (see here, here, here, here, here, and here) and get so down and low, or else frantic and scared.  But the best I can do is to keep writing, continue praying, practice grace, revel in creation, and gauge my faithfulness.

And my faithfulness looks like persistence, like fidelity to Christ, to his gifts, and to showing up.

quality Christian fiction

This issue has been pawing at me for the last week or so.

Here’s my dilemma:

As a fanatic writer, I have a hard time incorporating Jesus Christ into my writing in a way that is not alienating to non-believers.

As a critical reader, I find the number of books that can do this well to be sorely lacking.

Look, I know that there is a vibrant “Christian fiction” genre out there, but if I step into that area of the bookstore, I seem to be surrounded by Amish romances.  Really?  Amish romances?  That is what Christian fiction has boiled down to?  I have no– read my lips, NO– interest in reading such a book.

I want books like Perelandra by C.S. Lewis (which was full of dense theological arguments that were presenting in a fascinating and thrilling cosmic duel that draws in all readers), books like Peace Like a River by Leif Enger (which somehow manages to show a believer’s real relationship with Christ without stepping for even one moment into sentimentality).

Even worse than that issue is that I worry that I am contributing to the problem.  I’m not writing any poems about how God blessed us with puppies and rainbows or anything, but I am really struggling to find a way to speak to all audiences while still mentioning the name of my Savior.

This was my prayer the other night, which I am showing to you in the hopes that you will join me in praying it:


 Jesus, I want to do something big for You.  Unfortunately, without Your assistance, I can do NOTHING.  HA!  I even need You just to enable me to worship rightly.  I NEED YOU, JESUS.  My heart wants this so badly– I so desperately, so deeply want to honor You through my writing and want to draw people to You through story.  It seems almost insurmountable to me– the idea of writing incredible, realistic fiction that both honors You and appeals to both believers and non-believers and that will minister to hearts of all kinds.  Jesus, I know it is possible with You, but I think that is the ONLY way it is possible.  And I plead for it.  It’s like my heart is begging for this, Jesus, to honor You in this way, and I need Your guidance and direction just to even come close.  Help me to get there.  Help me to persist even if it takes so very, very long to get there.

I want what I write to matter; I want it to be infused with meaning and with YOU, and I don’t know how to do that without alienating the very people that I want to have read the book. 

May I please throw all this responsibility back on You and ask that You simply use these hands as Your tools?  When I sit at my laptop to write, Holy Spirit, I pray that it would be You who guides the words I write.