Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Fictional Faith

I'm slung deep in my chair, an open bible at my elbow (the study version, large and serious looking - enough bulk to make me feel clever and knowledgeable), keyboard in my lap (cordless - I often type with my feet up. Sorry Mavis Beacon), and I'm thinking. And thinking almost always gets me in trouble. But. . .

It's a favorite past time. Daydreaming. Spinning ideas. But today, there is relish, today I'm thinking in one of my favorite ways to think - deeply, searching for the backdoor, tripping over potted plants as I skirt around the corner of thought only to be confronted with yet another intriguing question. I don't mind dead ends, I don't mind dark alleys, the questions too impossible for me to answer. I embrace it all and revel in the experience of the search, in the luxury of looking around my brain and the resources available to me to see what I can come up with - whale or sardine.

I'm thinking about a question my fabulous editor, Nicci Jordan Hubert asked me yesterday. We were discussing a character I have created, a fine fellow who features in my next novel. He is a Christian, this character of mine, and my editor asked me if I could explain why.

She said it, just like that. "Why is he a Christian? Why, with all he suffers, does he cling to faith?"

It's simply the best question I've ever been asked as a writer. And while it might be tempting to reach for the quick answers about faith being irresistible, and experiencing divine love being unarguable (and it is), it's always better for a writer to stop, breathe, and look closely at the question before attempting to answer.

This is what I have done - and this is how I find myself hunkered over my study bible reading the sparse details of OT theophany and NT incarnation (and yes, NT theophany too - they are in there!). Questions about faith drive me to my bible - they begin and end with God, assuredly - but writing fiction requires I open the pages of my bible without a preconceived idea of the answers. I must approach with an attitude that says, "Show me" rather than one that says, "Prove me right".

I write fiction, stories that are not true, in order to help all of us (including me - especially me) find courage to explore the facets of faith, the unfathomable depths of God, the mystery of union, the fierceness of love.

I don't write novels because I have the answers - but because I have questions, ones I think you might have too. Good questions worth exploring, confronting. I ask them, not with a fist to God's face, but with open, dirty palms of hope. I ask because I want to understand more about the God I can never fully comprehend. I know He is not afraid of my wondering, not cowered by my doubts, not changed by my wavering understanding. I write fictional faith in order to help me understand my own, very real faith.

In doing so, I've come to see scripture in new ways. I've come to appreciate (rather than overlook, or worse, dismiss) the mysteries I find inside God's word. As much as His Spirit illuminates, He also points to deep things - groaning things - unseen things caped within God's character. It is an invitation into places He knows I cannot fully understand, but He longs to share with me, with all of us. It is an invitation for all of us to enter in and explore the fullness of freedom that is found in Christ.

So I contemplate my editor's question. I give it long attention. I apply the brakes to my easy answers, my insta-knowledge, and contemplate, snoop, poke, and most of all ask questions. In writing fictional faith, I find my faith can be transformed.

I bid you good writing.


Serendipity said...

I love your thoughts.

Wendy said...

Great blog post, Bonnie. Good fiction, good writing, good thinking, good faith-- they all mean no facile answers.

Steena Holmes said...

Alot to think about. The substance behind the writing is crucial and you just explained why!

Bonnie Grove said...

Thanks so much, ladies!
It's good to ponder in groups - helps us all share the load! :)

Koala Bear Writer said...

Definately deep questions. Yet I love the novels whose authors take the time to do this and so draw me as the reader into questions like that too. I can only hope that I can do that a little bit in my own writing. Thanks for digging and sharing!

Kathleen Popa said...

What a wonderful, wise post. Thank you, Bonnie.