Truth & Love in Christian Writing

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There’s a verse I was reminded of today, Ephesians 4:15: "Speak the truth in love." What an important thing to remember here. I’ve been guilty of forgetting this instruction, which doesn’t make me proud. There are also times when I’ve been snide or too cynical, and tell the truth, blamed my job or other people for it. But in our desire to set right the problems in our industry, I’ve sometimes pushed too hard, and forgotten to show love as I tell truth. We want to be truthful judges, but we don’t want to make it cut. We want people to understand what we’re talking about here and not offend needlessly. I need to remember that it’s only when truth is presented with love that it’s accepted. Otherwise, we’re just making noise here.

And in fact, isn’t that part of the point here about what needs to change in CBA? In presenting truth with love simultaneously, aren’t we talking about something larger than a public appeal like this blog? Ultimately, aren’t we looking for something more? More artistic? More subtle? I’m not trying to get existential or solve another unsolvable paradox, I just want to point it out so you can be aware. If those of us called to write are doing what God’s given us to do, all of us should be doing something other than sitting here chatting about the truth. There needs to follow a time where we’re actively taking it and using it in a presentation of a well-told work.

That’s the distressing reality to this blog that’s been bugging me for some time now. Not only do I fear people coming on here and using my thoughts as excuses to bludgeon each other, but the more I talk and think about the problems in CBA myself, the more my thoughts on the matter evolve, and the more diluted my actual work addressing it becomes. If I’ve got my mind already made up, what is there to put in the books? We don’t write to explain, we write to discover. This is ultimately one of the major distinctions between good, solid, exploratory work, and stale, uninventive, freeze-dried stuff. There’s the rub. If we’re figuring things out here on the blog, we’re not doing it in our stories. And the quality we’re so concerned with preserving escapes. We either have to remanufacture our discoveries for our work (a difficult and often pointless exercise), or we’ll have to focus elsewhere, thus stealing that book’s life.

Hmm. Think about THAT. Happy Friday everyone.

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12 thoughts on “Truth & Love in Christian Writing”

  1. Hm. That’s an interesting thought, Mick. I confess that as I was reading your words, I was disagreeing with you. I was thinking, “No. We have to figure out what we think in our rational, analytical minds. What we sort out in our fiction naturally flows out as a result of that work. Plus, then we’ll be able to articulate what we believe about faith and art.” Which, it’s worth pointing out again, Flannery O’Connor did all the time: BOTH.
    But then, as I hit the reply button, I suddenly got a flash of what you were talking about as it happens IN PRACTICE. Meaning, when I’m creating the world of my novel, when I’m immersed in the characters and the stories they’re telling, I’m learning a heck of a lot more about the creative process FIRST-HAND than I do in months, and possibly years, of reading books and blogs and thinking it through on my own about this stuff.
    Hm. Interesting. Maybe God was genius enough to make the very act the real instruction manual to His ways — and the ways ours intersect with His.

  2. PS: I hate writing in all caps. As an editor and a former college writing instructor, that’s just a big fat no-no. But for some reason I did it anyway. Hopefully you get the gist of my emphaticism. (Is that a word?!)

  3. As always, I’m enjoying your thoughts… one thing did pop out, that I wonder about…
    “Stealing that book’s life…” That kind of implies that our books come from one limited-supply place.
    Yet, I don’t believe that any of the thinking I do (on blogs or otherwise) destroys the life of my “bigger” written works.
    I guess I see it differently. Every thought, every conversation is flame, heating iron that I’m turning in the coals.

  4. I don’t think people really know what love is. The perceptions I run into certainly don’t resemble Biblical love. So truth offered without violins and flickering candles and roses and chocolates is no love at all. And since the truth was offered in a supposed offensive way, the truth matters not.
    Maybe you should just start putting hearts and flowers and puppy dogs around your posts, Mick, so people know you’re speaking/writing in love. I’m going to start doing that over at the Master’s Artist and in my e-mails.

  5. Mary, Mary, quite contrary,
    How does our writing grow?
    With Buechners and Bells,
    Who show and don’t tell,
    And counter the schlock in the rows.

  6. “If we’re figuring things out here on the blog, we’re not doing it in our stories.”
    Have I missed something? Did we figure everything out already? Or maybe just fifteen percent of everything? Please provide the links so I can apply all of the up-to-the-moment revealed wisdom to my novels-in-progress.
    When I skimmed back over the archives here, I saw a bunch of wrestlers (of varying skill and experience) caked in mud and rarely glancing at the referee for a sign that a champion might be crowned, but rather knowing full well that the answer was in the mud.
    The wrestling that takes place here and even in the hallowed halls of your local publishing house has measurable value, particularly when it comes to examining craft and purpose.
    I don’t think the danger is that we’ll use up all of our discoveries in our discussion of this writing life. I think the danger is that we’ll exchange our writing life for the endless search for discoveries. Maybe I should qualify that—this is a “danger” only for those whose ultimate God-given purpose is to write that “truth & love” stuff so others can participate in their own discovery through the reading. (If this is you, I expect to see loads of muddy footprints that lead from this blog to your writing life.)
    Maybe there are people for whom the “endless search for discoveries” IS their God-given purpose? I know, there’s no such category at the Gold Medallion or Christy Awards and you don’t get to sign copies of your discoveries at bookstores for adoring fans. But what if my purpose (or yours) isn’t about writing that novel after all (even though that’s what sends us here in the first place)? What if it’s to stir the mud a bit so others can unearth the rare 5.47 carat canary diamond that helps them better write theirs?
    Perhaps this thought is just a way of assuaging guilt over the slow progress of my own novel(s). If that’s the case, ignore everything I just wrote. Or maybe there is a humbling truth here—that some of us who believe we’re called to write for a greater purpose are really called to think about and wrestle with what it means to write for a greater purpose.

  7. Per usual, I’m late to the chat
    A deadline, new book, and all that
    Though I might sound uncouth,
    Let’s speak the Love in Truth
    As we get all the rest down pat

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