Writing on the Edges

By: Dennis Bates

The Bible is full of people who were called by God to do things they really didn’t want  to do. Moses really didn’t want to go back to Egypt; Jonah certainly didn’t want to go to Nineveh; Paul didn’t want to be blinded; Peter would have rather gone fishing, and even Jesus himself asked God to take the cup from him so he didn’t have to go to the cross.

 

But, they all did what God told them to do. That’s what sets them apart, and following their example is what will set us apart.

 

My calling is to write. I am convinced of it. It doesn’t matter what I did or did not do before this point in my life; my calling now, and I think probably for the rest of my life, is to write. That’s simple enough, but it isn’t.

 

I have been called to write what God through the Holy Spirit tells me to write, and that’s where it starts to get confusing to me. I have been called to write fiction. It would be hard enough to get through the maze of agents, editors and publishing houses, to write what is thought to be Christian fiction today.

 

 It amazes me how many gate keepers there are even in the so-called Christian markets. However, I am convinced that if I listened to all of them, studied all the guidelines, and applied myself relentlessly during the remainder of my life, I could eventually make it through all the wickets the gate keepers set up for my own good.

 

The trouble is wickets annoy me, especially at my age, so I try to keep them at a minimum, knowing full well that I have to endure some and comply with them. However, even if I could navigate the wickets myself, my product still wouldn’t fit through them. I not only write fiction, but I write fiction on the edge. For that matter, I write double edged fiction.

 

In a nutshell that means my writing is too secular for traditional Christian markets and too Christian for traditional secular markets. I have been called to write about people that I know in situations that I have seen every day of my life. They don’t all fit the mold the traditionalists on either side would like me to put them in.

 

My characters do things wrong; they sin, and they don’t always commit their sins off camera so we don’t see details. Nor do they only commit the sins which the traditional Christian markets find acceptable. My characters do them all, sometimes creatively. In addition, sometimes there are no immediately visible consequences for their wrong doing, no lightning bolts from the sky striking them dead. Are there in life all the time?

 

My characters also do some things right, even if they don’t always use the four spiritual laws or some other prefab formula to arrive at their “aha moment.” They get there the same way we all do: in fits and starts, imperfectly, trying over and over, accepting God’s divine plan when it comes to us, as it comes to us.

 

In my opinion, God comes to us as He chooses, not as we try to package Him. He has His reasons, and when we try to force those reasons into a box, or a creed, or one particular dogma, they aren’t His anymore; they’re ours, and even though they might work for us, they won’t work for everybody.

 

Writing on the edges is like that. I write what I write because I can’t write anything else. That doesn’t mean I’m not a Christian writer or that my messages aren’t Christian. It merely means that I’m writing where God chose to put me, addressing the people that He chooses to have me address.

 

I will never reach the fence sitters, the confused and the nonbelievers writing only about the holy, who all have sparkly white teeth, and right down the middle conservative families. I dance on the edges; it’s where God told me to go; it’s where He put me, and even though there are many days when I’d rather be sunning myself on the beach, I will obey Him.

 

One more thing: I am not alone. God has placed lots of us out here on the edges, many more than I would have thought. I know that there are some who have been placed squarely in the middle, writing within the rules, negotiating all the wickets very nicely. I accept that, and encourage all those people to keep on doing what they have been called to do. My only request of my brothers and sisters in the middle is that theyconsider extending me and the rest of those called to the edges, the same encouragement.

 

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3 Responses to Writing on the Edges

  1. Kathy Maher says:

    Dennis,
    you are right. There are many of us who don’t write pretty pleasantville Christianity in our books. For those that do, I like reading it, I just can’t write it. God hasn’t allowed me to live in pleasantlville, so I can’t write it from a place of authority. What I do understand is sinners, real sinners, saved by grace. I have to challenge a book industry whose mission statement supposedly is to present the gospel. Why not allow our books to show trophies of grace? I appreciate your courage to write what is in your heart. Hopefully, “writing on the edge”, as you say, will soon have its place. I KNOW there is a market for it.

  2. Dennis says:

    Kathy,

    You can’t imagine how encouraging that is to me. Thank you. I feel the same way you do about Pleasantville stories: I can read them, but I can’t write them. I hope to expand on this in another blog, and you have helped me have the courage to do that. Thanks again.

    Dennis

  3. Kathleen L. Maher says:

    awesome, Dennis! I’ll look for it with eager eyes.

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