When we finish a good story, most often it is not the fantastical world or gripping plot that stays with us. It is that nugget of truth that lingers in our minds and slowly being to change the way we see the world.
I do not remember the first time I read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, but I do remember growing up with Edmund Pevensie as my imaginary best friend. Most of all, I remember what his story taught me. I knew that whatever I did—whoever I was—God would take me back, and I could change.
I think most of us Christians writers want to bring godly truths into our stories and inspire the same feelings which we have felt in our readers. We want to glorify God in everything we do, and our writing should be no different. As Christians, we are told to share the truth and tell it in a way that others understand.
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. ~ 2 Timothy 2:15 NKJV
Almost as much as what message we choose to use in our novel, how we do it matters. While we have all read stories which reverberate in our souls, we have also read the stories which themes which felt fake and gave us hammering head-aches. In fact, I think we have all—at some point—written stories which inspired annoyance and irritation in our readers because of a forced message.
So I have a suggestion. Don’t try to give your story a Christian message. Just tell the truth.
Sometimes you might have to dig deeper, find the hidden truth, and reveal it, but just tell the truth.
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father…~ James 1:17a NKJV
So since God is Truth, perhaps we should focus less on telling a scripted message and more on telling or revealing the actual truth in our stories.
One example of a beautifully done Christian story is Till We Have Faces by C. S. Lewis. It is retold Greek myth (the one where the god Cupid takes the human Psyche as his bride, forbidding her to look at his face, and then Psyche’s sister tricks Psyche into disobeying Cupid, and Psyche is cast out.) Wait. How is this Christian in the slightest? There are literally multiple “gods” in the story (Aphrodite, Cupid, and the West Wind), and there are bloody sacrifices to the “god” Aphrodite. The story takes place in a country just outside of Greece, and there is literally not a single Christian character in it. In fact, the biggest conflict in the novel is the sister’s fighting against her pagan gods.
But C. S. Lewis believed that God’s truth is in everything, and it is our job as writers to reveal it. By the end of the story, he had revealed a beautiful truth about the wretchedness of our human condition and the great grace and beauty of God. In the second half, he wrote these two beautiful Christian paragraphs in the novel:
“The complaint was the answer. To have heard myself making it was to be answered….When the time comes to you at which you will be forced at last to utter the speech which has lain at the center of your soul for years, which you have, all that time, idiot-like, been saying over and over, you’ll not talk about the joy of words. I saw well why the gods do not speak to us openly nor let us answer. Till that word can be dug out of us, why should they hear the babble we think we mean? How can they meet us face to face till we have faces”
“I ended my first book with the words no answer. I know now, Lord, why you utter no answer. You are yourself the answer. Before your face questions die away. What other answer would suffice?”
I would highly suggest reading Till We Have Faces if you are trying to incorporate a biblical message into your story, so I tried to keep spoilers out of this post, though it did compromise the power of the example.
But overall, I am suggesting a new approach to our Christian stories. Don’t tell a Christian message. Tell the truth. Tell God’s truth. Tell the truth you see working in your life.
So what do you guys think? Do you have a message which you are trying to work into your novel?