by Karen Ball
I have had some interesting conversations over the last few weeks with several different authors about the fact that God often doesn’t do things the way we expect. In fact, there are times when God’s ways—and the ways of those He used–seem…
Even–dare I say it?–wrong.
Think about it.
The person who came to work in the field just before the day ended got paid the same as the folks who’d worked all day.
God hardened Pharaoh’s heart so he wouldn’t let the Israelites go.
God promised Abram and Isaac that their descendants would be more than the sands on the beach…and gave them wives who were barren.
God gave a prophecy to Rebekah about Jacob, which she “helped along” by some of the most blatant favoritism found in Scripture.
A guy tries to keep the Ark of the Covenant from falling on the ground, and God strikes the poor slob dead.
And on it goes. Things happening, and people doing things, that seem, to say the least, outside the boundaries of godly behavior.
Now, I’m not looking to get into a theological discussion with anyone, so please don’t post all the reasons I’m being a heretic. This isn’t about theology. It’s about writing. More than that, it’s about authentic writing.
A number of the authors I’ve been talking with have come to me because they’re struggling.
“I don’t want to write something that makes God look bad.”
“If I don’t add something here to make this make sense, what will people think of God?”
“This makes so little sense to the contemporary reader, won’t they just see God as unfair?”
These questions, and others like them, seem to come tucked inside the package when God gives you the task to write about Him. Whether you’re crafting fiction or nonfiction, odds are very good that you’re going to hit a spot where your fingers pause over the keyboard, and you struggle.
Because God’s ways are NOT our ways.
Not by a long-shot.
We want life to be fair, and God to appear righteous, even to those readers who don’t share our faith. I mean, He’s GOD, right? So of course we need to make sure we write words that make what God and/or His selected people do look right.
But here’s the thing. When we pretty up God and the people He’s used, we skate on some very thin ice. Basically we’re trying to put God in a nice, reasonable box. One that’s all wrapped up in sparkly paper, no wrinkles anywhere, with a big, beautiful bow on top. But friends, we can’t do that. None of us can sand off the seemingly rough edges or whitewash the hard realities of who God is.
Not without taking away from the fact that He is God.
I love what C.S. Lewis writes in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, God is Good, but he’s not Tame.
He’s not a God who fits in a nice, neat little box. Let alone one with a bow on top.
God’s not…pretty. He’s GOD. Almighty. Omniscent. Ever Present. The Beginning and the End. And there are things we will never understand about why He does what He does, or why He uses whom He uses. (David? Really, God? A guy who has an affair with a married woman, then murders her husband?)
But as hard as the reality is, the last thing your readers need is a cleaned-up, spit-and-polished, sanitized God. Nor do they need you to explain away His wildness. Instead, I challenge you to write about the reality of following a God who is so far beyond our ability to comprehend that at times we can only shake our heads and say, “I don’t get it. I don’t even like it a lot. But you know, God is GOD. And I trust Him.”
Are you writing about biblical characters who behaved badly? Then be honest about that. Let them be who they really were, not the versions that have gone through some spiritual makeover. Recognize that not every biblical tale, nor every encounter with God, is inspirational.
Some, my friends, are cautionary.
But whatever you are crafting, I guarantee if you’re honest and authentic with your readers, God will use your words to change lives. Because He uses everyday people who will speak truth–even scary, less-than-pretty truth.
Does God need a makeover? Hardly. He just needs us–no, He commands us—to speak (and write) truth in His name. And to taste and see.
That He’s good.
That He’s love.
That He’s the real thing, not some sugary substitute.
Write truth, friends.
And let God be God.