Signs after the fact

I’ll tell you a secret that only my best friends know: I’m an odd combination of fearful and arrogant. And although I like experimenting with my craft, I am very wary of experimenting with my life. But oftentimes, these two areas meet and demand a response from me.

I was born and bred episcopalian and one of the mottos I liked from that denomination is the denomination of the Episcopal Missionary society:

And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year, “Give me a light that I might tread safely into the unknown.” And he said to me, “Go out into the darkness and place your hand into the hand of God. That will be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”

Isn’t that a great motto? And for the fearfully arrogant, it’s very reassuring.

Ever since I was a kid I wanted to do great things for God. Different things for God. I understood that every child of God was unique and was called to do something only he/she could do. I assessed my various skills and contemplated all the things I was: woman, literature major, lover of puzzles, Black, woman, romantic movie lover, mom, etc. And did my best to put all those qualities, skills, and traits into my writing.

For me, this meant trying to write a novel that would be acceptable to both secular and Christian readers. For me, it MEANS writing another novel that will be acceptable to both sets of readers. It means believing that the story I now have in my mind –something of a game, if I really think about it– is actually a story God has called me to write.

The story is called Inheritance and the writerly game I’ll be playing will be based on the proposition: what if the church had continued to be like it was in the book of Acts? And, how will I depict the Christian community in such a way that it’s obvious to Christian readers what I’m writing about yet totally unobvious to secular folks or non-Bible readers? It’s a game, it’s a puzzle, it’s a challenge.

Of course, a bit of bravery on my part is necessary. And a whole lotta trust in God. But something in me keeps saying that this is what God wants me to do and I really should just jump into the story and trust it all to work out well in the end. That is so hard to do. Of course, most of the stuff God calls us to believe is downright impossible. That’s why he asks us to do it. And honestly, it would be great if God would give me a sign AS I plodded along with this book that He is helping me. But often he doesn’t. Or else he gives me the sign after I have finished my appointed task.

It seems to be one of God’s traits. Perhaps he wants us to know how to trust His love and care and power. But often in the Bible He gives a sign AFTER a situation when some poor soul needed the sign BEFOREHAND.

I think of the man who wanted his son healed. Jesus chided him and said, “you people always seek after a sign.” The man left and only got the sign after his son was healed. Then there was Moses:

But Moses said to God, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharoah, and that I should bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?”
And He said, “Certainly, I will be with you, and this shall be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship at this mountain.” (Exodus 3:11-12 NAS)

What does it say to me? That as a writer I might only get the reassuring sign after I have accomplished what I set out to do. For the life of me, I can’t understand now what use it will be to get a sign after I’ve worked out my vocation with fear and trembling. But I trust that in the future I’ll understand.


cathikin said...

I understand what you are talking about, although I haven't faced the same situation. Constantly I second guess what I do, wondering if it is indeed the way God wants me to go. I'd like to see the fleece wet now, please. Yet God is guiding, more subtly than I would wish, but I guess we learn and grow more this way. I appreciate the openness and honestly in yur blog. I pray you feel more positive vibes about the way you are to proceed for God's glory.

Deborah Cullins Smith said...

I think we all proceed with fear and trembling -- especially when our words could affect so many readers... It's an awesome responsibility.

Thanks for sharing, Carole!

Mirtika said...

I am also fearful and arrogant, and I also want to write books that reach that dual audience.

I'm not Episcopalian, though, but I occasionally go to the Episcopalian church down the street for Wednesday morning service. Very nice Bahamian/Caribbean ladies there with cool accents.

I've actually started praying in recent weeks for God to let loose and give the church more evident power as depicted in ACTS. The premise of your story, therefore, intrigues me.

I would like to be more trusting in the dark and new places...I would like less fear and anxiety. I feel a special terror when I write, and soemtimes it stops me cold and I can't write, thinking, what if this isn't good enough, what if this isn't honorable enough, what if God is not in this?

I want God to be in every word. And I want to be bolder, not so self-censoring and overly critical.

But mostly, I want to feel His power and have it reach out and help someone. If what I write does more than entertain--if it can give consolation, it it can enlighten a corner of the mind, I'll die a happy gal.


Scifiwritir said...

Hi Cathikin:

Yes... I keep wanting to get dreams in which he tells me which book I should be working on. Not good.

Hi Deborah: True. It's an awesome responsibility. Because there really is a separation from God. On this earth and after. And what with folks not going to church, the people of God have to use the media to reach the unreached.

Hi Mirtika:
I was raised episcopalian but when the episcopalian church tossed the Bible I pretty much had to leave. A real grieving process. I go to an evangelical ecuadorian spanish-speaking church now. That was a moment where God really did give me a sign as to where to go.

As for the book, I really am meditating on the book of ACTS. I find myself trying to understand what the church would be like if all Christians were still like the folks in Acts. It's interesting because that kind of Christianity isn't recognizable to most Christians or to non-Christians so I can get away with stuff. Secular folks won't see what I'm doing unbless they know their Bibles. Same with Christians. For instance, a character is simply transported like Philip. At another time another character enters a house with roaches and mice and simply commands them to leave...and they all march out the house. Disgusting but fun. And when the female main character meets the male main character, he asks her, "Are you one of us?" Instead of saying, "Are you a Christian." At one point the elders at a gathering tell the people to look into the mirror of life and try to "bring substance down" because faith is the substance of things hoped for. Biblical Christians would get all this. Some though will think it's "magic" and sinful. Will see. I just think of it as a game. How to get all that stuff in without letting the editors know the game I'm playing. The book is meditative for me in some ways..because it keeps my mind on the greatness of the full gospel of Jesus Christ.

Plus in addition to all this I have to keep the female character as the main character because that's the kind of book Juno publishes...female-focused paranormals. -Carole

Scifiwritir said...

PS, mirtika.

I also have a cool accent. Except it's Jamaican. -C

Mirtika said...

In the novel I put on hiatus--the one I was working on last year--it's an urban fantasy alternate world type of resurgence of ACTS, ie, all the gifts plus some I made up, are in evidence in an underground, persecuted regligious community. And there's one particular power than is only given to one person every few centuries or millenia, and the protagonist, unknowing, is the one with this God-given gift that can be used for good or ill.

So, the book of Acts was definitely on my mind, and the verse from Joel repeated in Acts, about dreams and vision, that was my take-off point


Mirtika said...

I had to mention the transported like Philip: I used that as well in AGE'S END--with that being, actually, one of the gifts, the ability to teleport. :D


CaroleMcDonnell said...

Wow, Mirtika! This is so uncanny. We're both thinking the same thing. I'm totally amazed.

In my story I've divided humans into two groups: the first creation and the second creation. The first creation is called the separated ones. And it is forbidden for anyone in the second "new" creation to marry someone from the first creation. It's fun finding ways to talk about the new life in Christ in such a way that the secular world just won't get what I'm doing and will just think of it as a science fiction or fantasy. Get that novel done, woman! -C

Mirtika said...

You, too.

I've received WIND FOLLOWER from amazon.com. Now, to find time to read it during NaNo!


CaroleMcDonnell said...

Oh , Mirtika! Thank you! I so hope you like it. I'm so glad I met you. I like you a lot and I'm hoping we can become good friends.

In the meantime, don't stress yourself about reading it. Your novel is crying out to be finished.

In December, the Christian Fiction Review Blog will be touring Wind Follower so you'll get an idea of it by then..and you'll be able to see if it's worth the read. -C