Posted by: ritagone | June 13, 2012

The Write Stuff

Here’s the thing that sometimes disheartens me:  non-Christian writers can so often speak great truth so much more profoundly and beautifully than those who know Christ.  I don’t know about you, but this makes me sad, very sad.

Where are the C.S. Lewises?  The Tolkiens?  The George MacDonalds of today who can not only spin great fictional stories that capture our imagination for years and decades to come but the truth-tellers who can turn a phrase in such a way that we can quote sentences and whole paragraphs to those who will listen and thereby touch lives?

I don’t see very many of them, to be honest.

I see a lot of writers who pound out books containing pretty lackluster prose, making their point or points logically and mechanically but never stirring the heart or imagination of their readers, and thus those books are forgotten within weeks or months of being read.

Think about it yourself: when’s the last time you read a book that stirred your soul with its prose, not only with the truth it was telling, but with the way it was telling it?  (I find Tim Keller’s writing to be as close to what I’m talking about as there is out there; he has as poetic a quality to his truth-telling as anyone else.  Henri Nouwen had it, but he’s gone.)  I just don’t see it in contemporary Christian writers – the ability to stir my heart as well as my mind.

I do see it in secular writers, and that’s the shame I’m saddened by, that the world once again has passed us by.

Here’s an example: I just finished reading Anna Quindlen’s most recent book of short essays, “Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake,” in which she discusses with great humor and insight growing old and all that that means.  In one of the earliest chapters, entitled “Next of Kin,” she discusses marriage.   To be honest, I haven’t read many Christian books that talk about the significance of marriage in the way that Quindlen does.  For example, she says: “If a marriage is to endure over time, it has to be because both people within it have tacitly acknowledged something that young lovers might find preposterous: it’s bigger, and more important, than both of us.”  Without knowing it, she has stumbled upon one of the fundamentals of the Christian faith: marriage is more than two people; it is a partnership that displays something deeper, more significant than the two people involved.  When it dissolves, there is a breach in the universe.  Quindlen gets this as surely as we believers “get” it.  She writes:  “One of my friends, a psychologist, told me that the greatest determinant of whether a couple stays married is their determination to stay married; on the surface it sounded like a tautology, but the more I thought about it, the more sense it made to me.”  And:  “As the actor Jeff Bridges said when asked the secret of staying married in Hollywood, ‘Don’t get divorced.’”

I’m preparing for the marriage retreat we’re going to be doing in Russia this September, gathering material and getting my head around how to handle what to say and how to say it to the ladies who will be there anxiously looking to the leaders for advice and nurturing about marriage.  To be honest – and this saddens me, as I said earlier – I found Quindlen’s chapter on marriage more sound and more filled with truth and the honor of marriage than most Christian books I have read as reference material in the last few months.

And much better written and memorable, to boot.

If we don’t develop and nurture good solid Christian writers and presenters of the truth of the Bible for the future, we are going to find ourselves up against something very fearsome: we are going to be unable to compete against the sterling words and phrases of the secular world around us that win the hearts and minds of their readers.

Why should the secular writers have all the good words and be able to use them so well?

Why can’t we not only do truth-telling but shape it in such a way that it is touching and memorable to the ears and to the heart?  Creativity is something that God placed in His children, yet many believers feel that their job is to get the message out and don’t worry about the format, the appeal, just do the work and say what needs to be said.  Job done.  Check.

Meanwhile, nothing is worth remembering.  Nothing is worth savoring.  Nothing pierces to the heart and marrow.

Where are the Christian poets who use words to illuminate what it means to honor and worship God?  To express the horrors and the highs of being human?  Where are the fiction writers who can get beyond banality to depth and beauty that lasts?  Where are the storytellers that have something so beautiful to say that we want to turn off the television and sit in a room and read out loud to our friends, our children, our family?

If good, solid, creative writing is almost a lost art, we need to dwell on the word “almost,” and find those voices who can combine truth and beauty.  They are out there.  I refuse to believe they are now silent.  We just need to find them and encourage them to sharpen their craft.

So if you know of someone who is a storyteller, who has “the gift,” or if you happen to be so blessed, write!  Speak the truth with words on paper or into a word processed document.  Hone your craft.  Encourage others to hone theirs.

Who knows: you may be encouraging – or you may be —  the next C.S. Lewis!

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Responses

  1. Great point Rita. I totally agree with you. I’m kind of burned out on Christian writers … drone on and on without much creativity.
    Blessings to you and Michael!

  2. Great post Rita. One Christian person who writes very well imho is Eugene Petereson. I am amazed at how he turns a phrase.

  3. Thank you Rita……your words always provoke thought & encourage me.


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