One of my favorite passages from Gertrude Stein’s memoir Paris, France is the excerpt attributed to, I believe, Jean Jacques Rousseau. In this passage, Rousseau explains the greatness he feels in the presence of God, and I love his flow of thought as he describes both the existence of God and the response he, as a human, feels in His light.
Translated from Paris, France:
The Eternal Being is not seen, or heard; it is felt; he speaks neither eyes nor ears, but in the middle we can compete well against his infinite essence, but not the failing to recognize good faith. Unless I see it, the more I love it, I humble myself and said: Being [of] Beings, I am because you are, it is rising to the source than to meditate ever more worthy use of my reason is to annihilate before thee: my rapture of mind, it’s the charm of my weakness to feel overwhelmed by your greatness.
If I take any of this into my life, I would bow before God and say, “‘Being [of] Beings, I am because you are.’ I attribute my being to You.” I love that I am made because of Him. I love that the French are lyrical and flowing in their poetry.
Whenever I think of God, and whenever I hear about Rousseau, I can smile and imagine that God is felt in the words of my friends, family, and pastor. That when I see the kindness of people, I can imagine He is there. Truth is found in more than just words; it is both the action and the words of people that show how God can live.
And I also smile knowing that is found in great French literature.
When I first began my college course in Writing Theory and Ethics, I had little to no intention of writing down my own theories of writing outside the class, thinking that theories were only set aside for academic exercises or dissertations. But now that I have taken this class, I see that I’ve been writing down my theories ever since I began my novels in high school. It was just a matter of recognizing my own patterns of thought and seeing those patterns play out in my fiction.
When I took classes in literary theory and creative writing, I began my own diary in which I revisited events of the day and sometimes jotted down clips of creative writing that I didn’t use for my assignments. As I matured in my writing and pursued my love of novels, I began to see patterns in how I thought and how I formed my stories. Sometimes those stories followed a similar motif, such as how I view a hopeful versus a happy ending and how I insinuate my faith into my writing so that my Christianity appears normal rather than contrived.
As I added my minor in journalism, I began to condense my diction and form my style with more action-packed syntax. Now I see the world through a journalist’s eyes, replacing my prepositional phrases with clear-cut nouns and verbs that grab my readers’ attention.
But my love is novels, and though the economy has shifted in favor of technical and journalistic writing, I have coupled my love for novels with my skill in journalism and have found social media to bridge the gap between classical literature and contemporary trends. It is actually in the ubiquitous Facebook and Twitter that I have begun establishing my presence as a writer, and as I tweet, text, and post “likes” on my statuses, I am beginning to see that the trends in our culture are helping me build a happy podium on which I can establish my career as a writer.
Throughout the journey of developing my personal literary theories, I have delved into greater strides of what I truly believe to be my own theories on faith, fiction, and journalism. In all my writing, I’ve noticed that I carry a thread of hope in my work. Whether it’s in newspaper articles, novels, or academic prose, I’m always writing with the clear vision that my readers will glean hope from my writing, and it’s because of my love for and belief in God that I’m able to portray hope in my writing and see this whole world as a reflection of His glory and workmanship.
My vocation in writing novels is to reflect God’s hope in young adult literature. When I see His creativity in the Bible and know I am endowed with the same creativity, I realize that I can create stories that give meaning and life to my readers, yet my field has become increasingly secular, and most Christian literature is criticized for being too hopeful and optimistic.
In my study of literature at the University of Northwestern – St. Paul, I have observed that Western literature has become more gruesome and depressing after the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries because of historical, societal, and economical events such as the World Wars and the Great Depression. Christian theology has been replaced with secular philosophies such as humanism and Darwinism, and in the previous century, when Americans and Western powers threw off God like a mantle, the Western culture became hollow as authors and laymen denied that God exists.
Christian literature has attempted to remedy this secular idolization, yet much of Christian literature has been given bad criticism for being too optimistic, promising that God’s blessings are guaranteed even though the world suffers a great deal. Despite this criticism, I believe that Christian literature is the answer to remedying our society’s literary depravity, because true Christian writers reveal aspects of God that answer or inspire certain readers who may be lost or who need encouragement.
When I compare my literature to postmodern literature, I see a stark difference: My characters expect hope in their lives. Though they do not always succeed in their goals, they expect the best to happen, knowing that their lives will end in the best way possible for them. Sometimes they appear as John Bunyan’s characters in The Pilgrim’s Progress, quoting Scripture and referencing God, or as C. S. Lewis’ heroes in The Chronicles of Narnia, referring to God not by saying His name, but by becoming allusions to Jesus’ resurrection like Aslan on the Stone Table. Although they do not always reference God, they exhibit how daily Christians cope with daily life, whether in the fantasy settings where animals talk, or in historical settings where Americans in the Revolutionary War would pray to God with Bibles in their hands.
Secular writers, on the other hand, do not portray this kind of hope because they do not house the living God in their spirits. One of the most famous examples is F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, which shows how America had become morally depraved in the 1920s as a result of the replacement of God with material possessions. I have seen no mention of God in these pieces of literature, aside from daily profanity and the characters’ questioning Christianity as a religion.
The strongest aspect of God that distinguishes Christian from secular literature is hope, but I realize that hope does not automatically mean a happy ending, for by a “happy ending,” I mean the type of ending that guarantees the characters’ desires. Hope is the promise that whatever will happen to the character will be for the character’s best. Sometimes hope does not mean a happy ending, but even if there is sadness, that sadness should not douse the heart, for if hope prevails in the end, the reader shall respond accordingly. Proverbs says that “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when the desire comes, it is a tree of life” (13:12). It is hope, not necessarily happiness, that should conclude a story, because hope is the factor that distinguishes Christian literature from secular literature and reminds readers that God is present in the story.