You Say Tomato, I Hear Guacamole, Parte Dos (Part 2)

A while ago I made a weak attempt at humor with my post about hearing something different than was spoken to me.

Today is part two on a similar theme, getting serious this time about understanding something different than was actually communicated. Through this process you might get a glimpse into the heart and mind of non-Christian and even some Christian readers as well.

To be blunt, Christians understand things non-Christ-followers do not. In fact, those who don’t follow Christ are literally blind and deaf to some things we see and hear clearly. Hearing the words of an non-believer should trigger something within the mind and heart of a believer, which is often different than what was actually spoken.

Maybe some of you remember your thought-processes before you became a Christ-follower. They are much different now aren’t they?

For instance, the level of panic exhibited over a situation is directly related to how much a person trusts God.

“We are all going to die in a climate change catastrophe unless we do something!” I hear, “I don’t trust God. He is not in control. We are.”

“The Bible says not to judge,” really means “I don’t want anyone to tell me I am doing anything wrong. I refuse to admit I am in error.”

“Jesus was just a good man,” should be translated, “If I admit he was more, then I need to do something about it and change my life. I don’t want to change.”

“The terrorists just need good jobs,” indicates, “I want the solution to everything to involve something we can control. If the problem was sin and evil it would need a spiritual solution and I want to avoid it. We are in control of this world, not God. ”

“The most important thing in the world is to get a good education,” means, “If we are well-enough educated we don’t need God. We can do this ourselves.” (By the way, Satan has been using this tactic since the Garden of Eden. It’s an old trick.)

No matter what book you might write or publish, it is going into a world which is hard of hearing at best and at worst, has no idea what you are talking about, or even want to know about.

It’s like you are speaking a different language entirely.

Think of some words commonly used in Scripture and by Christians to describe how we need to respond to God:

Repentance

Surrender

Obedience

Follow

Sacrifice

Submission

None of these words translate to something we naturally desire to do, like admitting we have been wrong. The entire concept of some of them makes us chafe a bit even as believers.

“So, let me get this straight, I need to admit I am wrong, give up control of my life, obey something or someone else and follow them? Um, no…I have not done anything wrong, I am in control, I am smart, I am my own person and my favorite song is I Did It My Way.”

Now, go ahead and try to communicate to someone who doesn’t want to admit they were wrong, justifies their behavior, refuses to give it up or follow someone else’ rules and you can get an idea how difficult it is to communicate to the world about Jesus.

Sure, you can focus on the “fun” Christian words like blessings, new, freedom, mercy, forgiveness and even more blessings, but the list of  “less-fun” words, the friction-words, are still lurking in the background waiting to be written and communicated as well.  Christian truth is a total package of the simple and complicated. The easy and tough. The calming and the disconcerting.

If you desire to communicate Christian truth, here is the key point to remember when you write: 

The third person of the Trinity is at work, going before you. The Spirit is already at work tomorrow and next year, cultivating the soil, watering the seeds you planted last week, sending sun to help them grow, opening eyes to see, opening ears to hear and hearts to understand.

So relax, write a great piece of fiction or a compelling non-fiction narrative to inspire, inform, encourage or point to a better life. Plant seeds and do everything you can to get the word out. Create great characters, dialogue and stories. Get the punctuation and grammar correct.

Just leave the translation work to God.

 

18 Responses to You Say Tomato, I Hear Guacamole, Parte Dos (Part 2)

  1. Avatar
    Rebekah Dorris August 9, 2016 at 5:15 am #

    Oh wow. This. This is why I read this blog every morning. You have lifted a great load, Mr. Balow. God bless you.

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    Christine Malkemes August 9, 2016 at 5:30 am #

    Accepted these words with gratitude, Dan.

    It is so easy to get paralyzed when we try to translate. We’re called to write.

    The best thing we can do is send the words out in prayer and let the Spirit work in the hearts and minds of the reader.

    No Sir. This is not a cop-out or an excuse to get lazy in writing, but a peaceful answer to un-needed stress.

    Thank you.

  3. Avatar
    Miranda A. Uyeh August 9, 2016 at 5:32 am #

    I needed this today! Thank you, Dan!

    On the flip, there are some words/realities that Christians don’t want to see in a book (no, I’m not talking about cussing). In a world where readers crave stories that tell the truth about human struggles/emotions that are akin to (almost) everyone, it’s a tough one for authors who are ready to write this way, in the Christian literary industry. While some Christian readers may frown at these kinds of stories, there are readers ready to embrace them, because to some of us, stories are more than mere tales to pass time; they are parables that impact/change our lives. Unfortunately, very few publishers are willing to venture into new territory out of fear that they’d upset these readers. I have met someone (a Christian) who told outright that most Christian fiction works are flat and unrealistic, as though Christian authors hold back from exploring outside the traditional box of writing. To her, a lot of Christian fiction are recycled stories.

    While this is changing (because in the last 5-7 years, authors, for starters, now write about struggles and imperfect characters), some readers are not fully convinced that Christian fiction is there yet.

    • Avatar
      Sherrhonda Denice August 9, 2016 at 12:02 pm #

      You hit the nail on the head! As Christian writers, we cannot be afraid to write the truth about life’s truths. It can be done in a way that still focuses on the holiness of Christ. We do not live in a bubble. We must tackle real stories about real people. The “good/fluffy” Christian characters who are near perfect and live in perfect worlds, do not exist and people in the real world don’t want to read about them…

  4. Avatar
    Lori August 9, 2016 at 5:39 am #

    Oh my goodness, this is the most powerful encouragement for Christian writers I’ve read in a long time. Thank you. Thank you. I will be sharing with all my writer friends.

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    Judith Robl August 9, 2016 at 6:40 am #

    Ah, Dan! Thank you!

    What I got from this is that God is still in charge of how our writing is used and interpreted. If we write as we are led by the Holy Spirit, our writing will find its way into the hands of someone who is ready to read it.

    It doesn’t matter if it’s today, next year, or a decade from now. God will use our obedience to further His kingdom.

    You have both challenged and freed us. Thank you!

  6. Avatar
    Christine L. Henderson August 9, 2016 at 7:49 am #

    As writers we understand the word “submission.” That’s where we surrender our life and work to someone we hope will work things out to our good. A bit of levity on my part.

    Seriously though, we do need to do the footsteps and let God handle the results.

    I also agree with your thoughts on the song, “My Way.” I always cringe when someone sings that song as it’s so devoid of God.

  7. Avatar
    Kayleen August 9, 2016 at 8:11 am #

    Thanks for this insightful post. I shared it with my Christian writing club and encouraged them to sign up for this blog. Most of us in the group write for ‘non-Christian’ publications so it’s a good reminder.

  8. Avatar
    Sally Bradley August 9, 2016 at 8:17 am #

    Loved this, Dan. Thank you for being bold. Because sometimes even Christians don’t want to hear any of this.

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    Carol Ashby August 9, 2016 at 8:18 am #

    So true, Dan. Within six months I’ll have a website up as a scientist to share with scientists and engineers in our mutual language why Jesus is the ultimate solution. What God calls us to, he gifts us for, sometimes by a lifetime of work not obviously preparing us for ministry.

  10. Avatar
    Sandy Faye Mauck August 9, 2016 at 8:53 am #

    Great post, Dan! Well said and well put.

  11. Avatar
    Davalynn Spencer August 9, 2016 at 9:22 am #

    Great post, as usual. I particularly like: “the level of panic exhibited over a situation is directly related to how much a person trusts God.” So glad I’m not on my own when it comes to picking the right words and searching for the language that the lost will hear.

  12. Avatar
    Bonnie Engstrom August 9, 2016 at 10:02 am #

    I know God is putting my Christian books in the hands He wants to read them. My biggest fan is a Jewish friend, and my books sell through Amazon all over the world, many in Asia. My characters solve most of their problems through prayer, often corporate prayer with others. Sometimes with Bible verses they read aloud and praise songs they remember.

  13. Avatar
    Loretta Eidson August 9, 2016 at 11:05 am #

    Great Post! Thank you, Dan!

  14. Avatar
    Peggy Rychwa/Sheryl Marcoux August 9, 2016 at 11:12 am #

    Good post. It reminds me of 1 Corinthians 1:18:

    For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (NIV)

    As Christian writers, I think we need to choose our audience before we write the story, because our approach and goals should differ according to our readers’ needs. Are we writing to Christians or non-believers?

    If we’re writing to Christians, our goal may be to encourage or to demonstrate (teach by analogy) a Biblical truth. If we wish to appeal to non-believers, we might consider writing a story in which we feed them a Fruit of the Spirit in hopes it will stimulate them to seek out the Tree of Life.

    The Christian writer might consider using a non-believing protagonist, someone who would hook that reader from the onset of the story. Stakes must be raised so that the reader is so invested in the welfare of the protagonist that the reader would be willing to tolerate a Christian theme being proven. This would take superb writing skills as well as being led by the Spirit of God. So perhaps we first need to learn which Spiritual Gift the Lord has given to us. Are we teachers or preachers?

  15. Avatar
    Sheri Dean Parmelee August 9, 2016 at 11:41 am #

    Thanks for your posting today, Dan. In my novel, I have a lead female character who forgives her husband and his mistress-turned-wife for some pretty awful things. She realizes that God has provided for her beyond her wildest dreams, when she relied totally on Him. She finds the need for earthly treasures fades when compared to the relationship she has with Him. I suppose that some readers will not understand her mindset, but I hope that the Christian readers will notice the comparison to Job.
    Best,
    Sheri

  16. Avatar
    Peter DeHaan August 9, 2016 at 2:38 pm #

    This post reminds me of an article I submitted to a Christian publication that was adamant it not contain any “Christianese” language. I worked hard to meet this requirement. Imagine my surprise, when their editor inserted uniquely Christian language into my article and published it that way, even though it contradicted their guidelines.

  17. Avatar
    Lisa August 31, 2016 at 4:37 pm #

    I decided that I was going to learn how to have conversation with “them”. In all my endeavors I have, I have learned so much. It seems to me that God made one kind of disposition (way of reacting in any given situation) but many other kind have derived, maybe because they are spirits themselves? think about it.
    Blood is also defined as disposition of mind, which by chance is not a thing that can be perceived by the senses, and is obviously contrary to the blood you can perceive through the senses. that is called matter, and matter is defined as being opposed to spirit. You see, when we perceive things through our carnal mind, it is temporal. It would be easier to talk to folks that would take out their dictionary once in a while so id have someone to talk to. I said all this Mr. Dan, brother, kindred spirit, because I obviously know how you feel. But for my experience, I conversation is getting easier, so long as I keep finding better ways to pitch Him, as I have here. I love you all.

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