The Eyes of Experience
|Eyes of Experience|
The Shining Company Rosemary Sutcliff
It is pretty much a known fact in literary circles, that the art of writing for even the most extrovert persons among us can be a lonely business - though for the most part a joyful one! For me, writing has often been a sort of therapy, a way of escape and relief from the stress of life even when it has been hardest to pen those aching words and bleed out those stories of my heart. I am by nature a very bubbly people-person, and absolutely love spending time with my family and friends. But I confess, there are times that I long to bury my head in the sand like a fanciful ostrich; and just delve into my imagination and scribbles. Sometimes, when the world is especially cruel, when people just don't make sense and disappointments crash on top of each other, I become something close to introverted. I detest 'disturbances' with a vexation that makes me blind to the reality that this is normal life. I then flee into the little world of my literary life. I cry my heart out into epic stories and heroic characters and plots of heart-wrenching proportions. That attitude makes me numb to the aches and sorrows around me, but also to what is beautiful and glorious, even in strained harpsongs and catches of ancient blessed tunes. And then I think of those around me, and say I will write deep themes to inspire and help lift others up!
But lately, I’ve felt the Lord showing me that in doing so, I was acting in a shallow, self-centred manner. In fact, this attitude is so opposite to the way of Christ. C.S. Lewis' book, Surprised by Joy, startled me with this thought as I saw what it was doing to me... but also to what I was writing. The truth is, we cannot write what is both real and meaningful in our books if we shrink from any of life's experiences, trials and friendships, loves and hurts. We won't be able to write deep devotional and spiritual truths in stories, if we are not praying and living them out ourselves - and learning from them.
The lessons we acquire from the mountains and valleys we journey and the attitudes we have will forever mold their way into our stories. It will influence the perspectives of our characters, the situations and relationships they go through. But I do not mean that we should go strutting through life in a happy-go-lucky attitude that is always laughing in the face of adversity. Truth be told, it is usually the 'darker' threads amid the gold of our lives that are worth the telling in tales of greatness. What I mean is when you and I face some trial, some obstacle or hurt, we instead need to pause and realize the Sovereign plan our Heavenly Father has for us. God is making you go through a journey of growth through the experience of pain and suffering for a purpose - to make you more like Him and conform to His glorious image. Oh! instead of 'escaping', let us instead thank the Lord for those lessons; let us trust that He'll accomplish what He pleases in you and me. The things we face will, by God's grace, help us mature in godliness and wisdom, not only for ourselves, but also for for our writing.
I think of examples of men and women who stood through such trials and grew from them so that what they created became all the more rich and powerful: J.R.R. Tolkien faced the terror of death in WWI and saw his friends die in horrific battles such as the Somme - yet he also found the beautiful and transcendent in his life and was inspired to write flesh and blood heroes who still live in our hearts and imaginations - Frodo and Sam, Aragorn, Bilbo and Thorin. I think of the story my sister once told me of Beethoven - how some of his greatest masterpieces were composed after he became stone-deaf, and how through the agony of his soul beautiful music was born. Elizabeth Elliot may not have been the inspirational and godly writer that she is today if it were not for the martyrdom of her husband, Jim Elliot, or the many painful lessons she went through in the jungles of Ecuador as she learnt what it means to forgive one's enemies, be still before the Lord and trust Him with quiet assurance the way she did.
Nonetheless, even with all of life's experiences, our writing ought to be filled with a sense of hopeful longing for what 'might have been' or what 'will be', even if we have not personally gone through such things ourselves. The tale of our lives is like a tapestry. We see the upside-down side...only the shadow of tangled threads; But God sees it all...the ugly black stitches and the beautiful full picture too. But experience gives those longings some depth, I think. Many of my most loved characters and scenes that I have written have in fact been inspired from lessons and trials I've gone through myself or from what I've learnt from others. Those experiences made little sense at the time. But now that I look back, I see how much the Lord has worked in my life things which in turn influenced my stories for an ultimate good.
My mind flits to that beautiful scene in the Disney movie, Tangled, when Rapunzel would see from her window on her birthdays the distant special lights of the city float to the sky, and how it filled her with longing. But when she went out that day and saw those lamps, it all finally made sense. She saw the light... and it changed her whole life! In the same way, when we see things from a human perspective, it can at best be only a glimmer of something beautiful, but most times quite dreary and hopeless. But when we look through the eyes of Jesus, all things will be new. He is the Author of all beauty, all songs to be sung, all tales to be written and told. And if we dwell and abide in Him, and ask Him to teach us to see all things through His eyes, we will also be able to write that way too. We will see what we were meant to see all along - in our own little personal story... in our far flung dreams and hopes... in those quiet times of prayer and rejoicing in God's Presence... in the tears trickling down a sister's cheek as she shares her heart with you... in the little freckle-faced smile of a curly-headed baby... in the stalks of dew-green grass between golden heads of dandelions at your feet... and in the mundane-ness of an Algebra equation; in doing what you are meant to do...in learning what you are meant to learn... and in appreciating what God has given you and me through life and experience...)
Then, we can truly write a story of beauty.
Then, we can write a story from its beginning to its end.