By Christine Sunderland
Christians know that when the Word was made flesh, mankind was changed forever. Just so words that move from speaker to listener, from writer to reader, are also incarnate creations, fleshed with sound and sight. Christ the Word of God, the expression of God, took on human form. Christ was and is God’s love letter to man. We too, write God’s love letters when we write fiction.
In our fiction, we create a way, a path through the dark wood of our culture, a way that links our own thoughts with those of another. We use language to do this – wondrous words, miraculous metaphors. We use matter, the stuff of the senses, to paint a picture that the reader sees in his mind and feels with his heart. We desire, above all, to truly touch another with our words, as the God of Creation touched Adam and breathed life into him.
Dorothy Sayers in her classic work, The Mind of the Maker, writes that artists reflect the mind of God, for they have the ability to create, to make. And so it is vital that Christian writers seek inspiration from God when they choose their words to tell a story. We must be inspired – filled with the breath of the Holy Spirit – when we create. For God uses us to speak to others, to in-spire others, to breathe upon others, to fill them with his love.
When St. John writes in his Gospel about the Word made flesh, he speaks of God’s expression, realized in human form. Just so, Holy Scripture, the Word, is God’s expression, realized in written form. These words in Scripture have been recorded by human beings – imperfect human beings – and placed on parchment, bound in codices, going back thousands of years to the early Church. These Gospel words were first spoken, oral phrases learned by heart, from the heart, for they were words first preached at the Holy Suppers, long before they were written down. And thus the Evangelists – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John – turned the spoken word into the written word, for future generations, for you and me, inspiring us by God’s Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit breathes fire upon us. He sets us aflame to light the way through the dark wood. He gives us words to incarnate his life among us. He fills us with himself, and our cup overflows. He showers us with goodness and mercy all the days of our lives.
Christian fiction writers light the way, inviting the reader into a vision of God’s mind and heart. We must sculpt a culture of faith, hope, and charity, pointing to God’s law of love, his words of commandment and discipline, his law leading to peace.
In my recent novel, The Fire Trail (eLectio, 2016), I focus on freedom of speech, protected by the First Amendment. When free speech and its soul, freedom of religion, is bullied into silence, democracy dims. So we speak out clearly: “Do not deny us the words to express our faith, our hope, and our charity. Do not tell us we cannot write. Do not burn our books. Do not remove them from the public square and force us underground. Do not dull inspiration by prohibiting prayer.”
And so we pray without ceasing, opening our imaginations to God’s mighty power. For we are only a means, a poor, inadequate, and lowly means, one word among many words, among many sentences and paragraphs and pages and novels flooding our world on screens and paper. But each of us is one of God’s words, and we have his power within us.
In this way Christian writers lead readers along the way of words, to behold the glory of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
Christine Sunderland has authored six award-winning novels: Pilgrimage, set in Italy, Offerings, set in France, Inheritance, set England, Hana-lani, set in Hawaii, The Magdalene Mystery, a quest for the true Mary Magdalene and the historicity of the resurrection, set in Rome and Provence and The Fire Trail, about the collapse of Western culture, set at UC Berkeley. She serves as Managing Editor for the American Church Union and Project Manager for the Berkeley Center for Western Civilization. Visit Christine at www.ChristineSunderland.com.