Filling the gap

One of the hardest hurdles I’ve ever had to jump has been figuring out what God wants me to do with my life. This might sound strange, as I’ve told people I’ve wanted to be a writer for about as long as I can remember, but it’s one thing to say you want to be a writer, and another to know what you want to or should write. Compound this with the varying attitudes towards art that one bumps into, either within the church or as a Christian artist outside of it, and you can start to see why I’ve faced complications.

This is why in the past few months, as I’ve battled through my understanding (or misunderstanding) of the character of God, fought myself, and fought the enemy, I’ve been so incredibly pleased to find myself coming to a new revelation of freedom and a new resurgence of passion in regards to the very thing I’ve almost always wanted to do: write science fiction and fantasy stories.

For me the problem has always been, at it’s core, fairly simple. See, it’s not always been easy for me to find people who care about the things I do with the same passion, who see the same potentials that I do, and for the longest time, I thought that was bad.

But, as God’s been showing me, it’s not.

For a long time, I found myself frustrated or hurt when others didn’t understand. I questioned the value of my work again and again, especially against the artistic successes and self assurance of my friends and colleagues. Was there something wrong with what I wanted to write about? Was there something wrong with me? Maybe if I took on other disciplines, made my work more “Christian,” maybe if I gave up more, something would change.

And some things have changed. Many of my frustrations with these challenges worked their way into my writing: woundedness, justification for retribution, judgment, bitterness, rage. Celebrating those things as justified, acting as if they’re right was, well, wrong, and that’s something that I need to and will weed out. I’ve also worked towards cracking the shell I’d made to keep God out of my work, to banish the fear that letting Him in would somehow limit me to the world of Christ-like allegory, poetry, devotionals (not that there is anything wrong with those, fyi, they’ve just never been my style).

But other things haven’t changed, and that’s where, with and through God, the freedom has come.

You see, the problem wasn’t with what I was writing–the subject matter, genre, or goal of my writing on the whole, it was how I was doing it. I had been told or perceived or misinterpreted things so many times that I had started believing a tremendous lie: that the things God had put on my heart were somehow unimportant or worse, wrong.

And that isn’t true, I was just doing them without Him because I was so afraid of this lie that I couldn’t dare let Him in. Once I did let Him in, once I opened that door, I was finally able to see how wrong I’d been. Because God does care about those things, the things that I see in science fiction or fantasy, and he does care about me. He cares about the state of Christian publishing, the state of science fiction and fantasy, the state of young adult books and comics and nerds. He cares about writers at conferences and helping others reach their goals, and he’s given me those same cares for a reason.

God is huge. Not just in the theological sense of infinity, but also in His goodness, and in the possible iterations of that goodness. This lesson has been pivotal for me.

I was told that coming back from a DTS can be jarring, that it can in fact be some of the hardest months of a person’s life (this information albeit coming mostly from those under 30). Thankfully, this hasn’t been the case for me at all. I’ll admit I still face worries, that I still have concerns, but on the whole, the transition has been incredibly easy. I think a lot of that is because I finally feel confident that I’m headed in the right direction, I finally understand that I have God’s approval, that He’s the one who gave me the very things I was afraid to give back. I’m walking in more faith, believing the same things I’d tell others, and believing God cares about the same things that I see. I see the world around me and my heart burns for it again, to see things changed, to know that there’s only one way to change it, the way He knows. I also finally know for certain what part (at least in part) I have in making those changes.

It’s awesome.

So, yeah, that’s a fairly brief update on how I’m doing, and I would love to share more about some of the whys later, but I think for now this is a big enough chunk for a brain to nom on (see what I did there?).

Thank you for reading. If you have stories about how you figured out your path or calling, I’d love to hear them below.

 

Shifting gears

Hey all,

With my imminent homecoming looming on the horizon, I just wanted to share a little bit about what’s on my heart for my next goals, dreams, etc. for life, my career and this blog. This is partly because it’s good for me to write it out/be accountable to people and partly because it will probably affect the blog eventually, so I didn’t want to catch you unawares. So, in a somewhat New Years-esque fashion, here are some approximate markers of where I think I’m headed, as always likely to change as God directs and guides.

In regards to my personal life:

  • Find a community and be involved in it. Short term this means returning to my family, home church, arts ministry and writing group, joining a small group, getting a mentor, and attending local writing conferences. Long term this means being more engaged in the communities I have a heart for, i.e. science fiction and fantasy storytelling across most media, the aforementioned communities I’m already involved in, the local library system, etc.
  • Keep pursuing intimacy with God, especially through the reading and memorization of Scripture, prayer, and journaling. Seek Him and His Kingdom first, no matter where I go.
  • Actively engage and invite God in/into what I’m doing. Look for ways that my gifts can be used for his glory and to reach the lost, and seek His guidance as to what people/places/activities I should or shouldn’t pursue.
  • Pursue humility and a teachable heart.

In regards to my career:

  • Start pursuing a career path related to my passions and gifts, trusting that God will lead me as I continue to seek His heart/glory/guidance/path/timing. This could include going back to school, entering contests, trying to find some internships or a job in writing/editing, picking up freelancing work, and obviously lots and lots of reading–including genres or age groups I don’t usually pursue–and writing (including short stories to try to get published, just like my mom told me years and years ago when I was still too proud to listen. Sorry Mom! I love you and thanks for putting up with my pride/foolishness all these years!). This also includes leaning into and strengthening the connections and resources I already have to learn more and continuing to develop the communities/ministries I already have.
  • Glorify God with my work and surrender it to Him. This means both inviting Him into my work, giving Him control of what I do with my pieces, giving Him control of what I write about–both in regards to content and virtue–and giving thanks to Him for it, regardless of what happens to/with it.
  • Maintain, advance, and/or improve the communities/ministries I’m actively involved in, from this blog, to Storium, my writing group, and the local ministries I’m involved in back home. Run or support them with integrity, responsibility, humility and love, knowing that God has given me the passions and responsibilities I have for a reason.

In regards to this blog:

  • In the short term, resume a bi-monthly posting schedule.
  • In the long term, refocus and refine the purpose of this blog, perhaps splitting it into multiple blogs if necessary. At this point, I understand this to be a personal blog relating my journey and the lessons I learn as I get closer to God and pursue my dreams of becoming an author. In future, it may become more one or the other or split into more than one. We’ll see.

Anyway, a lot of this is still pretty tentative, and I’m not sure how it’s all going to work, but honestly I feel more hopeful and excited for my future than I have in a long, long time, and it feels amazing. I know I have a long ways to go and a lot to learn, but I’m actually excited to get there, to put in the work, to pursue and to improve. So yeah, pray for me if you remember/would like to, and God bless you as you move into your own new year!

Jesus, Brian Jacques and Tom Hardy walk into a bar…

Mad Max
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YWNWi-ZWL3c
Image Credit

Simon Pegg, a famous science fiction and genre actor/writer/etc. and prominent nerd, recently caught some flack for some comments he made to the Radio Times regarding science fiction, specifically as a self-infantilization of the adult population, which you can google yourself if you’d like, or find better summarized and clarified here (NSFW language, fyi), on his personal blog. When I heard about the initial comments (before reading his clarification, which then made sense), I was in the midst of deep thoughts regarding a friend’s aversion to science fiction, and as someone who in addition to being a Simon Pegg fan has to fight the “No, science fiction is important” battle on a frequent basis, I must say I was grieved. That’s not to say that all science fiction is amazing, but coming directly on the heels of seeing Mad Max: Fury Road, I was especially disappointed, since the film stands as a perfect example of the reason science fiction exists. Thematically and cinematically beautiful, when the credits started to roll, I found myself spiritually satisfied. Now I don’t mean that to say that Mad Max fills the place of God, but there is a sense that God is in things that are done with excellence, and well, even if none of the people involved in that film are Christians, deep does call to deep, and when people tell stories that point to and search and talk about the true things in life, there is satisfaction in that.

Which brings me to the point of this post.

There have been times in my life where I think I’ve felt guilty for liking the things that I like. Science fiction, action movies, videos games, etc. If I was a better Christian, I’ll think, I wouldn’t like these so much. I’d be more sensitive to the violence, wouldn’t like dark heroes (even though, technically speaking, all Christians are dark heroes). But I do read dark Batman comics, and I do like big chase scenes and car flips.

And here’s something God’s just taught me.

Some people are meant for action, and seeing the fantastic is not a bad thing.

See, the problem is that the people that I (and probably others) sometimes see as the “best Christians” are often the ones with the strictest standards. They don’t watch violent movies, they don’t read comics, and they typically don’t like genre fiction, or at least not most of it. I compare myself to these people and the standards that they/God have set for themselves, and then feel bad when I don’t sync up. But this is not how we are meant to live, and on pretty much all levels, it’s really unhealthy. Romans 14 discusses just such a problem in fact, and in light of that passage I would almost think that I’m lucky to have the freedom to be a carnivore, as it were.

The other day I was reading Rakkety Tam, a Redwall novel by Brian Jacques. The creatures of Redwall Abbey were talking about the hares of the Long Patrol, an army from the mountain fortress of Salamandastron, and how while they themselves were peaceful creatures, the hares were creatures of war. They couldn’t fathom taking up arms themselves, but were so thankful for the Long Patrol, who are born fighters with war in their blood.

I’ve read about the eye needing the foot many a time (1 Corinthians 12), but I think this was the first time that I really felt it on a heart level, partly because it’s one of the first times I think I’ve ever seen an eye being verbally thankful for the presence of a foot (not that people aren’t thankful for me or don’t express it or that I know what qualifies a foot from an eye, but just the way it was phrased from a story vs. teaching perspective caught my attention).

And watching Mad Max, wishing that others could see it in the way that I see it, the beauty amidst the carnage, I realized liking science fiction and fantasy to the depth that I do is not a bad thing, but a gift. Seeing beauty where others see only action, Spirit instead of frivolity, these are wonderful qualities, a gift for seeing light and redemption where others see only darkness. And while that’s not to say all science fiction/fantasy/superhero/genre fiction is done well, I would also say that it might be the only place where some people see God at all, and especially on such a vast scope. After all, where else do we see epic battles of good vs. evil, communities forced to stand lest the entire world fall? This is in fact the Christian reality, the spiritual battle we wage every day, and as another friend of mine recently said on the topic, genre fiction is one of the few places our culture even admits to the potential for this other world to exist, the presence of a spiritual reality.

While I’ve rarely felt bad socially for being a nerd, I have felt bad spiritually. Thank God that He has shown me the beauty of being a trench fighter, a foot, a Long Patrol hare. I do see the world in shades of wonder, see potential for the fantastic across the mundane. Such is the fount from which I draw inspiration, the world from which my books come. And while I don’t fault others for not being the same (what hypocrisy that would be), am not even bothered that not everyone (not anyone perhaps) who reads this will give science fiction a chance (and perhaps shouldn’t, if that’s where they need to be), I won’t be ashamed of what God’s put in me, the gifts that I’ve been blessed with.

I am his beautiful daughter, a warrior princess, and yes, I am a nerd.