Now that I have a new book coming out (and my last one was a memoir of a missionary’s life), I have found that many people assume this new one will be a Christian book. If that is what you expect, you may be disappointed.
My novel is not filled with Scripture or lessons on a life of faith. It is set in a time and place where the existence of God was vehemently denied. Yet God is very much present around the edges of my story.
All I set out to do was to write a good story, the story that I believe God put in my heart to write. A few of the characters do have faith and some have even taken great risks to be part of an underground church. But others are die-hard Communist party members, while the majority are just regular folks trying to survive any way they can.
So am I a Christian writer or am I a Christian who writes?
Madeleine L’Engle faced that same issue when she wrote A Wrinkle in Time. She came to this conclusion: “I am a Christian and I am a writer.” (Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art.)
My personal belief is that God is the one who created me and gave me a desire to write and, hopefully, a talent to write. When I am free to be the person he created me to be, that brings him pleasure. And it gives me joy. It’s also a small way for me to reflect a little of his image—his character of creativity—through my small and meager life.
That is what I hope my novel will do. I hope it will glorify God through me expressing my gifts. John Eldredge wrote in Journey of Desire: “Our creative nature is essential to who we are as human beings—as image bearers—and it brings us great joy to live it out with freedom and skill.”
It’s funny, but people let Christians who are farmers just farm. They don’t expect them to grow Christian tomatoes. People who own dress shops don’t have to sell sacred blouses, or insurance salesmen write up holy policies.
Why the pressure on the arts? When I majored in Art in college, some people offered their opinion that I should just paint Christian subjects, whatever that means. Isn’t every created thing a worthy subject, whether it’s a human being in all their complexities or a spectacular sunrise over the ocean or the spidery branches of a winter tree?
Any division we try to erect between the secular and the sacred seems to be artificial. As Christ-followers, we are to live the life God has set before us as best we can, whether it’s mundane or grand. I remember reading about Brother Lawrence learning to practice the presence of God while he peeled potatoes. He fulfilled every menial task heartily, as though he was doing it for the Lord.
According to Os Guinness, “God has created us and our gifts for a place of His choosing and we will only be ourselves when we are finally there.”
So, yes. I guess I am a Christian writer. I am a Christian; I am a writer.