It’s been an interesting week.
I’m not sure where to begin, so I’m just going to stumble into this and figure it out as a go.
I haven’t been shy on this blog about my anxiety over writing and returning to writing fiction. In fact, that’s pretty much what this whole blog is about–or at least, it has been a huge piece of this blog. I thought I’d finally found a place where I could be comfortable with the position of my fiction in my life–that I could be happy to just write it and not share it, that I could acknowledge my need to tell stories, even if I didn’t share them.
But I still had a restlessness in my spirit. I wasn’t sure how to account for it. I explored a lot of different thoughts, but none seemed right. I prayed about it, but the “answer” was unsatisfying. Why?
Because the answer I kept getting seemed to be directing me toward writing–and not just toward writing, but toward sharing.
I am always really hesitant to look for “answers” in the nudges and leanings and such that other people seem to be sensitive to. I don’t trust myself. I am too prone to seeing the answers that I want rather than the answers I need.
But this time, there was only fear, tension, and anxiety at the thought of following through with the answer. “Share my writing? God, you have to be kidding me. Don’t you remember what happened last time? Don’t you know what people will say? Don’t you understand how everything–everything!–I write is different from what’s accepted, appropriate, allowed in the church?”
I’m always amazed at how I continue to ask God if He knows things as if He doesn’t know things. I have a very short memory. I seem to assume that He does, too.
In any case, the very idea of sharing my writing again caused nothing but anxiety, fear, and dread. I argued with God a lot about this. For a couple of weeks, this was the bulk of my prayer–when I prayed, that is. A lot of times, knowing the wrestling match that would occur, I just avoided praying altogether.
But the Hound of Heaven is nothing if not persistent.
Everything came to a head on Tuesday. I found myself having multiple conversations about magic in literature–specifically, I found myself once again defending Harry Potter. The purpose of this post is not to rehash the debate over Harry Potter but rather to share my frustration over the entire discussion about the role of magic and such in literature, and specifically, in Christian literature. My frustration stems from what I think are very poor arguments against the magic in Harry Potter. In my opinion, one could use many of those arguments as justification to avoid C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkein as well, but many Christians who refuse to read Harry Potter adore Lewis and Tolkein. I found myself in a very weird place on Tuesday where the same people who were refusing to read Harry Potter were encouraging me to write my worlds. I could not help but think, “how can you encourage me if you find fault with Harry Potter? Do you not know that my work and my magic systems will very likely offend you as well?”
I took to Twitter to rant. I finally tweeted the following stream:
“I should not have to be braver in front of my Christian brothers and sisters than I am in front of the world, but that’s where I end up–I constantly have to defend my artistic decisions (the art I make and the art I consume) because I don’t fit the proper mold. Again, I’m too clean for the secular art world and too inappropriate for the Christian art world. One is a place I don’t want to live, and the other seems to be a place where I can’t live if I practice art the way I think I’m called to practice it. If Jesus doesn’t give me some baseball bat therapy soon, I swear I’m giving this whole damn thing up and burning my effing hard drive.”
“What’s baseball bat therapy?” you might ask. This is the form of therapy whereupon Jesus smacks one with the proverbial baseball bat to get one’s attention. This is also the form of therapy that seems to be the most useful for me. I can be rather hard-headed.
I went to bed Tuesday night ready to wake up on Wednesday and spend the day deleting documents from my hard drive. I had no intention of ever going back to my writing at all. If I was being called to share, then I just wouldn’t write. Period. Because the only way I could see to write the stories in my head–the stories that I’m quite certain God put there–was either to keep it to myself or risk being ostracized by my own brothers and sisters.
Wednesday morning, the hubby and I were lying in bed checking e-mail and Facebook and the like, and he started telling me about a weird dream he had. At the same time, I was scrolling through Facebook and noticed a status update from a writer friend for whom I have great respect who writes in a similar genre. My husband said, ” . . . and they told me I had to pick up my cross and be crucified . . . ” for his beliefs in creationism.
At the exact same moment–and I’m not even kidding, literally the exact same moment–I was reading “pick up your cross and die” on my friend’s status update.
The exact. same. moment.
That, my friends, is baseball bat therapy.
Because here’s the part I haven’t mentioned: I have always–always–felt a strong pull to write fantasy from a Christian worldview for a secular audience. I want to tell God’s story through myth, symbol, metaphor, and magic, but in a way that makes God’s story appealing and accessible for the secular audience. I have always thought that might be my calling–to be a witness through story for those whose hearts are longing to meet the Ultimate Storyteller.
But I feared that calling because I knew–because I know–that my work will not be well-received by those I rely on for my spiritual support. So it becomes a choice of playing it safe, keeping close to those who share my worldview, and putting all of my writing away (or at least keeping it hidden) for fear of the condemnation I will receive from the church, or . . .
Or . . .
Be obedient to the call God has placed in my heart and on my life.
This is my cross. This is the cross he has given me–the risk I have to take.
And it’s not just a risk with the people in my community–it’s also with those in the secular literary world. They will find my work too clean, too pure, not edgy enough, I’m sure, because that’s some of the criticism I’ve heard before. They might detect my worldview and hate me for it. They might slander me with all manner of insults.
But this is the risk that God has asked me to take–to carry this particular cross.
I realize how this sounds. I realize that I sound like I’m trying to be a martyr here. That’s not my intent. I’m just trying to wrap my head around the idea that God has called me to live in-between these two spaces–one that’s safe for my content but unsafe for my worldview, and the other that’s safe for my worldview but unsafe for my content.
So this is my baseball bat therapy. This is my calling. I will still pursue restarting my freelance commercial writing business, but it looks like I’ll be working on re-editing and republishing my short stories and novels. This won’t happen overnight, and there’s a lot of work to do here, but . . .
God has really left me no other choice.
And so, I will be obedient to this call. I will pick up my cross. And I will remember that I carry it for the One who carried it for me first.