Saturday, May 6, 2017

A Sense of Awe

My wife Maribeth and I sat on the balcony of our hotel in San Juan, Puerto Rico, sipping our morning coffee and watching waves break on the beach.  Our day’s devotional text was Psalm 27:13, “I believe I will enjoy the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living,” so the scene prompted a prayer of praise and gratitude that God had placed us in such a beautiful world.
I believe a distinguishing characteristic of Christian fiction is this sense of awe at the natural world. Not a moralizing commentary on the weather, scenery, or other physical phenomena, but an awareness that the environment of our story demonstrates the presence of a creative, compassionate God.
   Perhaps the heroine is riding in an ambulance with her husband, who’s struggling to hang onto life after a heart attack. When a paramedic tries to jolt him back into a regular cardiac rhythm, she looks away and sees the majestic Cascade Mountains illuminated by the first rays of dawn.
   A teenage boy waits for the bus that will transport him to another state where he hopes to escape the abusive scorn of his alcoholic father. A Canadian goose crosses the highway with a single adolescent gosling behind it—not a pair of parents but one, not a brood of goslings but one.
   It’s not necessary to tell a reader what conclusions to draw; in fact, spelling out conclusions would betray a distrust of the reader’s spiritual sensitivity and limit his ability to draw more transformative conclusions than you have imagined. Simply note what’s happening in the natural world and let the reader discover God in it.
   “The heavens are telling the glory of God,” the psalmist said. Like the poet, a Christian novelist doesn’t tell readers what to see in her imaginary world, but she renders such a world so faithfully that readers feel a sense of reverent wonder.

Joe Allison is a retired Christian editor living in Anderson, Indiana.

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