What am I showing in my writing?

Tonight I sat down to prepare a blog post about how to show, rather than just telling, in follow up to my post from last week.  As I took a break and was washing the dishes, two things occurred to me about my post: 1) I’m totally unqualified to be writing about the technicalities of how to write, with only one publication credit and absolutely no higher education on the subject, and 2) even if I’m right about what I have to say, I’m probably not explaining it nearly as well as someone else could, like the kind of person who has more than one publication credit and some higher education on the subject.

I’m guessing even she is more qualified to talk about this than I am. Also, Canada. 

Of course, there always comes the thought at that point: “But I worked so hard on writing that post. I can’t let it go to waste!”  Hah! Wow… Because, you know, posting my thoughts about the technicalities of writing on a relatively low traffic blog is something other than letting it go to waste….

A thought did come to me, though, about this whole subject of showing versus telling.  If when we write our goal is to show rather than tell, then what should be my goal in life as I witness for Christ?  Do I tell that I am a Christian, or show that I am a Christian?  Jesus said a number of things about this, such as “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matthew 3:8), “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit” (John 15:5), “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last” (John 15:16), and “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35).  If you don’t already know, all those verses about fruit are not gardening directions from the Bible.  “Fruit” means living a life that conforms to his will… Showing that you are a Christian, not just telling!

Of course, there is a place for telling in the life of a Christian.  “For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved” (Romans 10:10). Faith expresses itself verbally with the confession that I do trust in Jesus, I stake all my hope in him, and I want to do what he wants me to do. Well, most of the time. There’s still this sinful nature thing I deal with.

But if that telling is all there is, and no showing, it’s a lot like the point I was making in my post last week on the subject – it’s basically just saying that either you can’t trust my words, or you should believe my words despite my actions.  Neither of those ideas sends the right message.

Alright, so that’s my life as a Christian.  Let’s bring it back down to the writing thing, though, since that’s what this blog is all about.  What am I showing about my Christian faith in my writing?  Now, I know that there are some people out there who would say that I’m not showing my faith just by virtue of the fact that I write Sci-Fi/Fantasy.  There are many Christians who are convinced that the whole genre is antithetical to Christian faith.  Without going deep into it, I will simply state that I disagree.  We could spend a lot of time talking about that subject, but we won’t. Better men than I have already hashed this out many times, and I tend to side with many of their conclusions.

That debate aside, the kind of content I choose might say a lot about me as a Christian author.  Jon did an interesting post a few months back about use of “foul language”, and that certainly might say something about how I show my faith.  At least, the ways I might use uncouth words and reasons behind it will.  The themes I follow and conclusions I try to draw for the reader may demonstrate my faith in some way.  Certain subject matter could cast a positive or negative light on my faith; for instance, though I might not shy away from any and all references to sex, I would choose to avoid graphic sexual scenes in my works, for the same reason I don’t put a webcam in my bedroom.  It’s a positive thing in a godly marriage, but it’s also private.  And it’s also incredibly distorted in our culture.  But I digress…

The really big question, though, and the thing that really strikes at what I am showing, begins with who I am writing for (or for whom I am writing, right Mike?).  When I am writing for myself, out of selfish motives either to gain fame, fortune, or just the ego stroking of a cult following of devoted fans, it is going to show through.  At that point, whether I tell you I am a Christian author or not, you’re not going to buy it.  However, when I maintain the focus that I am writing to use my God-given talents and glorify the Giver, then maybe you’ll see what I want to show you.

This isn’t a new subject for us on Seeking New Earth.  We’ve discussed the idea of writing to God’s glory time and again.  Yet, it’s important to revisit it. And revisit it again.  And again.  See, we all have this little problem – we tend to put ourselves in the middle of our story, in the middle of our world.  We need to remember that the real center of our story is Jesus.  He’s the one we want to be pointing to.  So it’s good to talk about it all over again once in a while.  It’s good to be reminded, especially when I’m tempted to think too much of myself.  Like when I set out to write about a topic I’m not really qualified to talk about…

God bless your writing this week.

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5 responses to “What am I showing in my writing?

  1. First: That’s John the Baptist talking in Matthew 3. So Jesus wasn’t the only one who hit that “produce fruit” business!

    Second… yeah. This is such a big topic. So… I’m going to let it sit there for right now. 🙂

  2. There’s also a little epistle tucked in the back of the Bible called James…

    It’s difficult to stop at every sentence and say “is this to God’s glory, is this to God’s glory…” sometimes I’ve done that. I get to asking myself “Is it my best work? Is it clear? Is it thinking on ‘whatever is beautiful’? Could people see the gospel?” and so on. I personally believe it to be a practically useless, but I do it anyway.

    So I guess I go back to my own creativity article: God creates; we should create too.

    Because every now and then, we will do our worst, most evil, most depraved things when we THINK we are moving in God’s glory. We sin when we think we’re doing RIGHT, not just when we’re doing WRONG. There’s no escaping it, and it’s awfully easy to overthink.

    • Mike, I agree with you that trying to sit and assess every step of the way whether or not your writing is to God’s glory is an impractical exercise. I believe you have it right when you say simply that we create in reflection of the Creator.

      The other factor, of course, is consistent growth in an understanding of the Word. The deeper we go into that, the more likely we are to write things that reflect our faith without even having to think about it.

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