Monday, May 28, 2012

Welcome Wounds: Could Imperfections be Desirable? (Part One)

"In a perfect world..." It's such a common saying, one that most people never give any serious thought, a vehicle to express desires, hopes, wishes for humanity, dreams that will never come to pass. The harsh reality is that our world is not perfect, never has been (expect briefly), never will be. In fact, we are so used to an imperfect world that it is hard to imagine one without sickness, death, and sin. Those trials permeate our lives and even help to shape who we are. This is especially true in the life of a writer, and I think James Baldwin captures the idea perfectly (or imperfectly, as the case may be).
" is only because the world looks on his talent with such a frightening indifference that the artist is compelled to make his talent important. So that any writer, looking back over even so short a span of time as I am here forced to assess, finds that the things which hurt him and the things which helped him cannot be divorced from each other; he could be helped in a certain way only because he was hurt in a certain way..."
We are who we are because of what we've been through. No soldier who comes back from war is the same person as when he left. Qualities such as perseverance, courage and integrity are praised all over the world, but what is perseverance without opposition, what is courage without fear, what is integrity without sin? The good in our lives is highlighted, made more apparent by the bad. Likewise the goodness and grace of God could not be so clearly shown if there were no sinners to save.
There is also the issue of becoming better able to write or better able to capture the world in a story after having been through personal distress. It is a hard issue to address, because no one wants to lose a family member, live through a war, or fall into alcoholism. Yet, there is the idea (whether real or embellished) that most successful writers were tortured souls or had some sort of handicap. John Milton was blind, Dickens had a troubled childhood, Hemmingway ended his own life, to name a few. And, their works have stood the test of the ages. People will never forget their names and remember them for their genius, not for their troubles. Then, the question remains: is it worth it? Is it worth it to suffer voluntarily or involuntarily to produce something great. Or, is the whole thing a myth in the first place? Does it take pain to produce greatness? I don't know. I haven't lived long enough to tell. What I do know is that we have a responsibility to obey God. If we make an impact for His name, it doesn't matter that we are not known by others. I can't believe it is right to intentionally endure suffering in the hopes of becoming a better artist, but trials will come. Sin is unavoidable, death and sickness common conditions. If God can bring anything good or worthy out of baseness, then all the praise goes to Him. If He can make us more aware of His grace and better able to serve Him, then we only have to marvel at a God who uses even that which opposes Him for His glory. "Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!" (Romans 11:33) 

Join me again in the next few days for Part 2, to read more about our sin and God's grace.

(Credit goes to Jesse Negron and his Screenwriting II class at The Master's College for covering this topic in such depth.)

Monday, May 21, 2012

Durable and Indurable Goods, or an Economy of Living

Two weeks ago I was a college student. Now, college is nothing more than a fond memory. I find myself stopping at odd times during the day wondering how it could possibly be over. One thing ends and another begins. I just went through commencement services, not termination services, after all. Soon enough family and work will take over the place left empty by school. Until then I'm trying to fill the void with those things I know I'll never have another chance to do.

Some of my favorite memories from The Master's College come from all the writing classes I took with the Communication Department Chair Dr. Jack Simons. His sarcasm, honest criticism of my writing, and heartfelt encouragement that I never give up were an invaluable mix. At the end of every year, Dr. Simons gives each of his graduates a parting gift, books and a certificate. I received Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard and A Shropshire Lad and Other Poems by A.E. Housman. Housman has been a favorite poet of mine for a couple years now, especially his poem "Reveille," which I encourage you to read in full sometime. The last stanza goes liket this:

Clay lies still, but blood's a rover;
Breath's a ware that will not keep.
Up, lad: when the journey's over
There'll be time enough to sleep.

How many times have I read that verse and clasped the book to my chest in rapture? That sounds too much like a line lifted from Anne of Green Gables. I won't go on. But, you'll have to admit that Housman was a genius. Grant me that much.

I don't know if Housman was a Christian. In fact, I know very little about his personal life, but I think that poem has a lot to say for the Christian college graduate, or anyone walking by faith. We have so very little time on this earth. Breath truly is a ware that will not keep. Every moment there is the chance that it will expire. I was surprised to see how quickly my three years of college went by, and I know the rest of my life will pass just as quickly. I certainly can't spend my days idly if I'll only have 80 years (at most) on this earth. I have do to something that matters. For me, that means using my writing to spread God's truth and encourage His church. It will most likely mean something very different for you but just as important. We must lay up treasures in heaven that will not expire. Our treasures on earth are like our breath, here only for a moment. Even my writing, though it may last after I am dead, will not last forever. Lives that were changed will last, and they must be the measure of the journey.