I hung up the phone after leaving a message for my publisher for what felt like the twentieth time that week, feeling as though this entire book endeavor was turning out to be somewhat of a disaster. After all, miscommunication and squashed expectations seemed to be our unfortunate MO.
But amidst the disappointments and frustrations that were relentlessly dotting this difficult time of stretching and hard learning, I had to remember my purpose in all this mess, one that I had long since entrusted to mighty hands far more capable than I.
I didn’t start out to be John Grisham. I don’t write to sell millions of copies, and I think you’ll find that underneath the inky epidermis of it all, many storytellers feel the same way. After all, it isn’t J.K. Rowling’s millions that we’re truly desirous of. It’s not her fame, popularity, or material wealth that prod the dull ache in our hearts. Certainly those things would be nice benefits, but what it comes down to is this:
The weight of significance that satisfies something in a reader’s soul.
It’s the “in” she has, the opportunity, talent, and ability to touch millions of lives with make believe, and for those of us who long to share the good news through our writing, this might be our deepest envy.
Rowling’s books were certainly the center of controversy among believers, and we must absolutely take care what voices we allow to speak into young minds, but the lesson I’d like to point out is this, “Look! Right there—did you miss it? How millions of all ages devoured a single story? Did you see the entire generation of middle school boys now reading for fun, or the adults still waving their ballpoint pens like wands when they think no one is looking?”
Literary fallout can be a colossal force. The hearts of this world are hungry, starved in fact for something that will make them feel whole, and what better opportunity for those who bear the sign of the cross than to write living water into the ink of books?
Barnes and Noble shelves bend with paranormal romance, and Amazon networks are saturated by fifty shades of the same old thing, but unless a tale is bound by something beyond this world then the ultimate result will still eave spirits empty once more, empty and searching for the elusive echo of joy that rings raw in the hollow soul.
I didn’t become a vegetarian after reading Charlotte’s Web, and Richard Adams’ work didn’t see me scrambling to secure rabbit rights. I knew they were stories in the end. But even among the whimsy of the imaginary something within me was moved, insatiably stirred by the constant anthem that there was more to this world than what I could see. That life, death, beauty, and sorrow were more than a handful of rocks and bacteria thrown carelessly together by chance collision. I read because I needed to know that there was more than all this. That’s the magic of it. That is why we need books, perhaps now more than ever before.
There. Did you catch that? The tangible, redeemable, and live-giving thing that can be plucked from between the pages?
Love, pain, justice, mercy, meaning—Truth.
There is an open door in the literary realm, a perilous quest awaiting the pens of those called to proclaim the living God, the triumph of grace.
Certainly not all books are created equal, and the discerning heart would be wise to sift through what he reads and what he chooses to fill his mind with. For the enemy is here too, lurking between the lines and prowling, claws extended, along the spines. But what I hope to impart is this, the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.
Whether in writing or in any other field, let us minister through our excellence, marrying quality with the holiness that pierces the shadow and satisfies the soul.
I will never be Harper Lee, but I write to light the dark, and in that endeavor I know that my God is able to turn even failures into instruments for his glory.
Want to open a book and drink in the light with me?
In the paths of pages, we just might find our way home again. This is the truth that children cling to and adults allow the years to tuck away:
When what is unreal becomes real, magic becomes more than make believe.
Images via: Tumblr.com, Susan Tuttle Photography, domainehome.com, inspire we trust, and Graeme Smith.
All work subject to copyright by the author. Use by permission only. Copyright 2016.