As a writer, I cherish a desire to lighten this dark world a bit, through words strung together as well as I can. Whether that’s to enlighten someone’s mind or to lighten the burden of their heart, I take the command to be a ‘light in the world’ seriously when it comes to the task that I think God has set for my life. Not as seriously as I should, maybe- but it guides my growth, and encourages me to try harder, to write more, to be… less lazy. Ahem.
However, as I watch the world spiral, I often become jaded. It’s an undeniable reality that goodness and light are hard to find in this planet we call home. We writers have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to inspiration for all that is cruel, dark and twisted. In the face of it, happy little stories seem trite. Sure, ‘Love What Matters’ and other places highlighting the simple acts of goodness that everyday people are doing are wonderful. They are doing something very, very necessary, in my opinion. But when I zoom out and think about the big picture, it’s easy to brush them aside. It’s beautiful, what people do for good. But it doesn’t seem to stop the darkness.
C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien are two of my role models, as Christians, as people and of course, as authors. Their burden is my burden… it’s a beautiful thing to know our work is all united in its common cause. However, when I begin focusing on what I see around me, the interconnectedness of the devil’s web, I begin to doubt their calling and mine. Tolkien’s high fantasy, insisting on the prevalence of good at the end of every desperate struggle, begins to seem näive. Lewis’ claim that, in the heart of image-bearing man is a thirst for truth, rings hollow in my ears. Even Solomon and Paul, telling me in scripture that God has set understanding in man, that they may be without excuse for their willful ignorance and depravity, just crushes me a little lower.
What good am I in the face of this? What good are my words and ideas, made over from words and ideas people of God have been spinning since the beginning of time?
Ah, there it is. Even in the beginning it was light against dark. It was Noah against the world, building not a story but an ark. It was the prophets, crying out. It was my very Savior, telling parables to the people gather round him while knowing they would shout for his death before they ever understood his meaning. And on and on, it’s always been so. Our time is not unique in it's struggle, not really. It’s always been a few against many. The word of God against deafened hearts. And ever it has been the few that hear and come. The tale of a life spent for God doesn’t have to be one of huge grandeur or scope, one of thousands coming and lives being turned upside down.
It could be one person who reads a book and begins to question, to search
It could be one person who can finally believe they aren’t alone, that their broken heart can mend.
It could even just be me, learning to know God so I can write Him into my stories and essays and heart.
When Tolkien began his epic tales, I don’t think he had an idea that they would change the world. He just wanted to build the world he saw in his mind, and to tell it to his boys before bed. I don’t think it was meant to be a monumental work of literature, it was meant to be a story. A story into which he poured the truth that framed his life. It was vastly important to him, but I doubt he expected it to be so important to the millions of people that have since read his tale of valor and baseness, vying in a death grip for the rule of Middle Earth.
So was he naive to think it’s so simple? That the good actions of a tiny hobbit can really matter in the face of the mighty Mount Doom? Or isn’t that what the stories are that God chose to give us in his Word- stories of little people doing big things through and for Him?
So today, as yet another headline shoots us in the face, as the political clamor ceaselessly cudgels our ears, as your own heart begins to sink a little and doubt, like mine has-
Stop staring evil in the face and look up, away, to goodness. To the goodness for which our souls really do long. If you don’t have the answers, look to that truth. If you don’t have love, look to Christ on the cross. Why is it so hard to realize that our problem isn’t the evil we see, it’s the way we are looking at it? We see through a glass, and all that. We have to learn to stop trusting our own eyes so very much and to trust His, to do every little thing we can. The was my mind works is to see things in webs, so to speak- all the horrible things connecting and connecting until I get completely overwhelmed and apathetic, as though nothing can be done. But the good things do that too! They connect and grow and build on themselves. No-one is an island, and everything we do for good or ill can directly change the world. Just as Samwise says, the good is there and it is worth fighting for.
I’m writing to myself, you know. I know all this in my head (clearly, since I’ve written it). But do I believe it? In other words, am I acting on it? Not really so much. But I want to. And I hope you do too.
'For God has not given us a spirit of fear;
but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.'
2 Timothy 1:7