Thursday, December 16, 2010

Tormented by the Big Question

How many times have I asked myself, “Should I be using up all this time writing when I could be… (fill in the blank—helping family or needy friends, getting to know my neighbors, taking on more responsibilities in church, getting involved in the community…)?”

My doubts don’t stop there. I go on to ask myself, “Even if I got published, would it be worthwhile?” Books have such a short shelf life. People read the book… then forget it. All my work, all that time I spent on it, is gone. So I entertained someone for a few hours—is that any kind of substitute for ministry to real live people?

Hoo. Those questions really bother me. I don’t want to waste the time God has given me. I don’t want to neglect someone I should be helping.

On the positive side, I do feel like I’m fulfilling a gift when I write. I’d really love to be able to sing—you know, just belt it out and actually sound good. Instead, at best, I meow. I’d love to be able to paint masterpieces. Instead I blush at my silly stick figures. And how I’d love to be a gourmet cook. Instead I mess up even the simplest of recipes.

But I can write. I come alive when I write. Joy bursts in my heart and radiates out to my skin when I write. Even when I hate what I’ve written, it’s only because I want to be a “10” and nothing less.

Still, the question remains. Is writing fiction worth all the time it takes me away from ministry to others?

I finally got help from a sermon. The answer surprised me. The sermon was on evangelism—not exactly my strong point. Yet look how Christian fiction writing lines up with evangelism:

First, from Matthew 9:35, the ordinary means of evangelism is teaching and preaching. Hopefully, fiction doesn’t preach, but it does teach. Not overtly, but subtly. There’s no question the author’s worldview comes across in the story. And usually our characters change from the beginning of the story to the end. They learn something. They’ve been taught something (and the reader with them *big smile*)!

Secondly, the aim of evangelism, from verse 36, is to help the “sheep having no shepherd” find The Shepherd. “Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest,” verse 38 says. Wow! Isn’t that who we are as Christian authors? We are laborers, sowing the good seed, helping to bring in the harvest, that the Lord of the harvest be glorified. Yeah, I’m beginning to glow here! *second big smile*

And, lastly, what is the motivation for evangelism? Verse 36 says Jesus was “moved with compassion for them, because they were weary [harassed] and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.” In fiction, compassion for our readers translates into their identifying with what happens to our characters. Occasionally I read secular literary fiction, and almost always I end up throwing the book across the room when I come to the finish. Pessimism, not compassion, is too often the sledgehammer those authors wield.

So, the long and short of it is that fiction-writing can be ministry. As Christian authors, our stories are seeds sown to bless our readers and glorify God. Doesn’t matter how long our books are on the store shelves, or how many books are sold. What matters is that we are God’s laborers.

Of course, there is that little factor called publication. I’ve come a long ways from thinking you write, ergo you get published. Yeah, bwahahahaha! So, I have no control in that arena. But God does, and I can leave it in His hands. My responsibility is to be a faithful laborer. Learning to write the best I can is my part; getting published, bringing forth fruit—that’s God’s part.

Ahh, at last I’m at peace. (Most of the time.) How about you? Do doubts torment you?

Steph Prichard            


  1. This is encouraging and "Good News"
    Thanks for sharing.

  2. Steph, Did you make the Indiana chapter meeting in June? Rick spoke about "The Power of Fiction" to bring about social reform and change individual lives, using such examples as "Oliver" (Charles Dickens) and "Uncle Tom's Cabin" (Harriet Beecher Stowe). The same message in a different form.

  3. Kathryn,
    No, I missed the June meeting. Sounds like a good message for what ailed me!

  4. Steph, Your opening question has tormented more times than I can count. Thanks for sharing these thoughts.

  5. Steph, know you are loved. And I am telling you, keep writing. You are needed.=)

  6. Thanks for your encouragement, all of you! :)