Storytelling and the Journey Homeward

God Quotes

In Walking on Water, Madeline L’Engle had this to say about the purpose of art and artistry:

The journey homewards. Coming home. That’s what it’s all about. The journey to the coming of the Kingdom. That’s probably the chief difference between the Christian and the secular artist–the purpose of the work, be it story or music or painting, is to further the coming of the Kingdom, to make us aware of our status as children of God, and to turn our feet toward home.

This statement stands in stark contrast to the notion that the purpose of fiction is to provide entertainment or offer a diversion by which the hours might pass more pleasantly. Certainly, a good story must entertain, must compel and captivate a reader, but the reason for story isn’t entertainment alone.

By nature, stories communicate meaning on a level that moves the heart, so when writers craft novels, they have the potential to heighten awareness of truth or further dull hearts to it. I believe the telling of tales was intended to awaken the soul to the reality of eternity, and as Christian writers, we should hold to this purpose when we approach the craft of storytelling.

This doesn’t mean that every story must have an overt message or adhere to a set formula, but that as Christians who write, we must have a vision to further the coming of the Kingdom through our creative endeavors. Otherwise, what is the difference between Christian artists and secular?

I’d welcome other perspectives, so I invite you share your thoughts on the matter–even if they differ from mine.

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  • Rebecca LuElla Miller
    November 22, 2011 - 2:37 pm · Reply

    I believe the telling of tales was intended to awaken the soul to the reality of eternity Me, too! 😀

    It’s a little eerie that I wrote about this very thing in my Spec Faith post Monday. But it’s nice to know someone else believes as I do (especially since I’m taking a divergent path from Mr. Tolkien). However, you’ve added an important caveat: it is the job of the writer to hold to that purpose.

    Thanks for this post, Sarah.


    • Sarah Sawyer
      November 28, 2011 - 5:22 pm · Reply

      Becky, thanks for leaving the link–I’m behind on reading the blogs I try to keep up with, thanks to the holidays, but I just stopped by and left a comment there. Such coincidences in subject matter are a bit eerie. 🙂

      Recently, I talked with my sister-in-law who just finished the Narnia books for the first time. She shared with me the intense yearning for heaven stirred in her at the conclusion of The Last Battle. It was a great real life example of the way stories increase the longings God has placed in us for His Kingdom.

      It’s so important for writers to have vision for their storytelling and to recognize the impact it can have. If our highest vision as writers is to offer entertainment alone, that’s likely to be reflected in the work, but if we have a vision both to entertain and to give glimpses of eternity, then I think our stories take on new depth.

  • Maria Tatham
    November 22, 2011 - 3:36 pm · Reply

    Sarah, Becky,

    Sometimes I think that the best things we accomplish, with the Lord’s enabling and for His glory, are the things we do less self-consciously. However, we obviously must be deliberate in writing fiction.

    Christian fiction should be more than entertainment, but entertainment is a huge part. Think of the Creation. When the Lord created everything, all the sons of God shouted for joy. We should create for His glory in order to elicit delight in readers. The delight may come from different aspects of our fiction, the plot, the characters, humor, imagination, and a mix of these. Even justice and judgment as themes can bring delight because justice is also the desire of a child of God.

    • Sarah Sawyer
      November 28, 2011 - 5:24 pm · Reply

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Maria! I agree that we shouldn’t be too caught up in ourselves, and we certainly don’t want to produce stilted, sermon-like works. Yet I think having a vision for our creativity and glorifying God in it will result in the opposite–works that both entertain and convey meaning.

      As you mentioned, we delight in the process of creating, a joy that comes through functioning in the image of our Creator, and we hope in turn to pass that delight on to those who will read our words. This then, is an example of vision for writing, that we wish to stir emotion in those who read our works, to entertain them and also provide for them insight into truth. When we have such a vision, it can actually help remove the focus from ourselves, I think.

      • Maria Tatham
        November 28, 2011 - 8:47 pm · Reply

        You’re right, Sarah, that our vision and focus should remain upon glorifying Him. It’s like a pianist who must do all the practicing, and understand the music, and then play her best with the focus on the music, not her practice or ability. The music is of utmost importance; it has a life and meaning of its own, and the less of us in it (in some way) the better.

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