by Diane Andersen
Photo by Yannick Pulver-unsplash
“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before us, endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
A beloved old hymn begins, “I love to tell the story, of unseen things above, of Jesus and his Glory of Jesus and his love.” Stories have been an integral part of my life since I can remember, from my early childhood days in Sunday School to becoming an avid reader throughout my youth and adulthood, which is probably why when the day came, I couldn’t find the story idea I wanted most to read, I turned, literally in desperation, to writing one of my own. Little did I know that would lead unexpectedly, to publication and a new avocation mid-life, one I actually had been avoiding all along, as I struggled to follow God’s plan for my life, while trying to set my own course on my terms. Little did I know how being a writer would bring me untold blessings, but best and most unexpectedly of all, writing has brought me closer to my faith more than any sermon, Bible study or theology course ever has.
Writing a novel is a daunting task. So where do you begin? As a beginning writer I had no idea, and delved into several writing manuals written by experts in the field and came away with all sorts of pithy sayings and mantras that authors like to bandy about during the writing process. “Don’t be afraid to mess up your characters, throw stones in their path” because “conflict makes for a better story.” No one wants to read about happy mundane events. That’s boring! Most of all, have a major plot problem and an end goal in mind, with every scene moving the plot forward.
As I began putting all this advice into penning a first draft, I slowly began to realize how growing in the Christian life was much life following these writing tips. Life was full of plot problems that crop up daily, some big, some minor. I thought about all the stones thrown in my path throughout life, how often I asked God to take them away and make my way easier with less conflict. I also thought about suggestions critique partners gave, often running counter to my overall goal for the story. No, as the author it was my prerogative to stick to my plot map with perhaps a few selective changes here or there. But overall, I knew best for my story and characters as the author, even if it meant messing up their lives for a few hundred pages of plot.
Yet, how must I sound far too often in prayer, asking God to “change” the course of my life, alter the plot points to make my life the way I wanted, because I must have a better handle on this. Right? Yet patiently, like the writer faced with misguided critiques, He listens and gently guides me, knowing all the while what his Master plot map is for me.
Years ago, another author addressed this same issue of “Why Bad Things Happen to Good People”. His answer was that God too is powerless to alter our course and so, it just is what it is. Nothing can change that and we are but to accept it and understand God’s limitations. But that answer never satisfied me and actually is more terrifying and somewhat insulting to the God of all who created the universe as he reminds us in Job, “Who is this who darkens my counsel by words without knowledge?” (Job 38:2) Here and in so many other passages in Scripture, we learn that God very much is in control of his Creation, his “story” and the book he left for us to follow, to learn from and to enjoy the many stories and adventures of His people (which continue to inspire authors down through the ages). To know that we each in many ways are “characters” in God’s ultimate story of Salvation, a very real drama that plays out each and every day of our lives, and no matter how many “stones” he tosses our way, he sees the whole plot arc, knows the ending and assures us it is a happy ever after one. Just as he told Job, who endured more “stones” in his path than most of us hopefully ever see, Our Heavenly Father delights in his creation, understands our needs, and is with us every day to comfort, guide and instruct us in the way to go.
So, really, what have we to worry about when our story is full of conflict with seemingly no resolution? We are far more to our Heavenly Father than mere “fictional characters” constructed by a capricious author, either for personal amusement or financial gain. Rather, not only did the “author and perfector of our faith” design the perfect setting and character arc for each and every one of us, he went one step further in becoming a living breathing character within our world, taking on the stony path and tragic ending we all were to face.
A “Christ figure” is a classic trope in literature along with the quintessential “hero’s journey”. While secular literary experts have their theories as to how this came about and why it resonates with readers throughout the centuries, we Christians know for certain that it has an origin story found in the person and work of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord who became one of us, suffered and died on the cross in our place to ultimately triumph over death and Satan. So, rather than asking “why bad things happen to good people” ask why would Jesus allow those same bad things to happen to him, when he is the perfect author who had the plot set in place even before the foundations of the world. (Ephesians 1:4)
As I sit down to write the next scene in my current work in progress, this thought is never far from me. I wonder what I would say to my characters lamenting the same things I pose to God when things don’t go my way or when I want an easier solution to a current problem. When my character flaws cause me to stumble, I know I have Jesus there beside me to bear all my burdens, carry my sorrows while the Holy Spirit is there, honing and perfecting my faith to endure the trials and stones in my path until the Happy Ever After story end. Until then, this present trial is but another adventure, a reason to let my character arc grow and become what the Author and Perfector of my faith intended.
Rejoice in times of sorrow and tribulation that we do have that author and perfector of our faith, guiding our plot and bringing us to a triumphal concluding chapter where there is no The End, only another story to begin!
Dear Heavenly Father, when our path is full of stones and the plot is murky with trials, forgive us or weakness and keep us mindful of your constant guidance and love and our eye ever on the end goal of eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
ღ About Diane Andersen ღ
D.L. Andersen holds a BA in elementary education and church music. She has taught in a variety of learning environments over the past 30+ years. An avid reader of classic literature and historical fiction, she started dabbling in writing a historical novel series based on an old historic house in her neighborhood. Since then she has published three novels and a few short story anthologies. She also has contributed an occasional devotion to Christian publications and served as a church organist and music director. She loves the small-town life where she lives with her husband, two dogs and a cat.