You Have to Look
My pastor said something during a recent sermon that really struck me. He was talking about his early days as a Christian, and how he visited a church very different from the one he’d been attending. He said he sat there, feeling rather smug, and thinking how pointless all their manmade rituals were, how misguided and Godless the church seemed.
Then God hit him with a 2-by-4: “I’m here if you’ll look for Me. But you’re not looking for Me. You’re too busy judging.”
This attitude is not just an issue with different denominations—it’s also an issue with different genres of fiction.
Genres are a personal preference and not something we can dictate. We can’t control what stories snap our neurons into action any more than we can control what foods send our taste buds into bliss. Is it my fault if romance puts me to sleep, but fantasy begs me to stay up until two a.m. for one more chapter?
God loves variety, and He created us all with different tastes. The cool thing is, He is willing reach out to us through all those different styles of music, styles of worship, and genres of fiction. We are generally attuned to Him through our particular style preferences, though, and as my pastor made note of, we will have to look for Him in the places that don’t naturally align with our tastes and experiences.
But too often, readers and writers of different genres spend their time judging and not looking.
I’ve been guilty of this myself. In my early days of writing, I had no idea that Christian fiction existed, much less that any of it was sci-fi and fantasy. So I searched for God, and found Him, in secular books, and in the very fantastical and dark books that appeal to me. To this day, I still prefer that subtlety and tend toward books with dark and subtle references to God.
I tend to feel God more strongly during dark times. And no, that doesn’t mean I only turn to Him at times of need—it means that is when I feel His grip on me the strongest. So the rest of the time I need reminders, I need chances to think back on those dark times and feel God’s hand around me again.
Cheerful, overt, Christianese-filled stories don’t appeal to me. And when I first started writing, I found those books a bit insulting. How could they really have God in them? They’re so saccharine, so shallow, right? You need grit in your story to get across a realistic relationship with God, don’t you? You need that darkness to feel His touch…
But they reach people. People with different experiences than me. People who maybe haven’t experienced my level of darkness. Or maybe, they reach God in different ways.
The point is, I wasn’t looking, I was assuming. I was judging.
Coming to that realization was much like what my pastor described. I felt slammed with questions and accusations from God: Why are you judging others while griping that they are passing judgment on you? What gives you the right to determine where I reside? I may shine more brightly in the dark for you, but others need Me in the light as well!
Notice in there that God pointed out my own griping. Me, complaining about others doing exactly as I had done! Judging me because they couldn’t see the value in my dark, spooky, or fantastical stories—both the ones I read and the ones I write. Yet, I was doing the same thing to them.
It works both ways, see? We judge them, they judge us (and we complain about it).
What this has all led me to understand is that God is where He chooses to be. We as humans, we as writers, can’t limit Him. He’s not afraid of the dark, nor is He intimidated or insulted by writing we may see as fluff. He wants us all to do our best, to give 100%, but He’s not going to only reach out for readers through award-winning and best-selling novels. God isn’t a literary snob.
He wants all of us, no matter what genre we read. And if you don’t see Him in someone else’s genre, maybe you simply aren’t looking.