“In the Hebrew Scriptures there is no word for spiritual. And Jesus never used the phrase spiritual life. Because for Jesus and his tradition, all of life is spiritual. Everything is spiritual.” – Rob Bell
Have you ever had a moment when you discover spiritual truth in an unexpected way? This happens to me when I watch movies or TV shows, hear music, have conversations with other people, or in the ordinary activities of my day. God is always with us, and if we are sensitive to that idea, we become disciples (from “discere”meaning “to learn”) of the greatest Teacher ever.
Today, I typed notes as I listened to Card’s lecture on various aspects of fiction writing. The analogy of God-as-author and we-as-characters is inadequate and flawed. The main problem with the analogy is that God loves us, His very REAL non-fiction characters. And the Plan of the Ages is so much more than a story. Nevertheless, for people who are able to look past what doesn’t fit, the analogy is loaded with spiritual truth. Card is an author who is very concerned with explaining why people do what they do, and as an author, he explores the human condition through his fictional characters and circumstances in various settings from familiar to alien. I always find some spiritual truth in his books because of this. In his writing class, he explains the brainstorming processes and techniques that he uses to invent his wonderfully imaginative stories, and like his books, I also glean spiritual truths from his lessons.
I’d like to share a few excerpts from the notes I typed today. Card’s ideas and words (my paraphrase, NOT direct quotes) are in bold. My observations are in regular type.
Writers tend to retreat from the scene that really ought to be written. This can happen as a character flashback or narrative digression. If you find yourself doing this, ask yourself, what is so important about the scene that I want to retreat from it? This is the very thing you need to write. This is what is powerful and interesting to the reader. (And on a funnier note, if you want to make a character throw up, it is probably because you are hiding from writing a real scene.)
When I first began to notice inconsistencies and believability problems with spiritual concepts that I had always assumed were true (because the institutional church said so), my natural inclination was to retreat. I was afraid explore, because what if I actually found something that clearly contradicted beliefs that were foundational to my understanding of Who God is or what God does? What would my church friends think of me, if I were to challenge the “truth” of the pastor or highly respected elders? Does God approve of “dangerous” critical examination of orthodoxy? Am I allowed to do that?
As it turns out, God wouldn’t have it any other way.
Consequently, I have learned to recognize that when someone introduces an idea and I have the urge to retreat from it, I stop and ask myself why. What is so important about the idea that I want to retreat from it? This may be the very idea I need to explore. This may be an interesting and powerful concept that God, the author and finisher of faith, wants me to understand.
The real question, then, is do I trust God enough to keep me from serious spiritual misdirection? If the idea turns out to be false or corrupt, do I trust Him to keep me from embracing it in ignorance? And what if I get it all wrong? Do I trust God to set the record straight? Do I believe that His love for me does not depend on me having an accurate understanding of everything?
Someone can be a brilliant writer, but if there is no story, that talent is wasted.
A pastor can be a brilliant speaker and natural leader, but it doesn’t mean he has the final say on what you ought to believe.
Christians can build magnificent churches and put on a high quality Sunday morning show, but if there is no hope in their message, why bother?
God can create billions of unique human beings, but if there is no hope, His creative act was a waste of time.
If you write, “She was sure that…” or “She believed that…” from the point of view of that character, you are actually introducing doubt. If you are giving directions to someone of how to get to your house, you don’t say, “I’m sure that you turn right on Holden” or “I believe that you turn right on Holden”, and if you did, people would think that you don’t know where you live.
I think that this one speaks for itself. There are times when we ought to say, “I believe ___” but we don’t. And there are times when we ought to say just say, “___” but we add, “I believe” to it. The trick is knowing when to recognize that you are a fallible human being, and knowing that there are some truths about Who God is or what God does that transcend our innate ability to screw things up.
If you have a character that is supposed to play a minor role and the character keeps becoming more important to the story than originally planned, don’t let the character just take over the story, go back to your original story plan and rethink it to include the minor character as a major character.
If you have an acquaintance that has a minor role in your life, and the he or she keeps becoming more important to your spiritual journey than you expected, don’t let the him or her just take over your spiritual journey, go back to who God created you to be and what God created you to do, and consider how God may want to include him or her in your spiritual journey.