As a maturing novelist, I’ve been told to create three dimensional characters One way to do that, I’ve learned through writers’ conferences, critique groups and books on character development, is to show cause and effect, for every action, there is a reaction. I need to show an internal and external reaction – how the character feels then what the character does. If a child touches a hot stove, he feels pain, says, “Ouch” and removes his hand.
Here is a bigger example: if my character sees a house catch on fire, I need to describe my character’s emotional reaction. Panic? (Oh no, are there people inside that house?) Fear? (The fireman might be injured.) Joy? (It’s about time that trash heap burns to the ground.) How my character reacts tells my reader a lot about this person. Then my character must do something that fits with the emotional reaction. They will either run away, call 911, or dash into the house to save the cat perched in the upstairs window. I can’t have my main character sit idly on the side of the road – unless I’m writing about Nero who fiddled while Rome burned. When I write this way, the people I write about will seem more real and alive – because that’s the way we are wired. How they react defines the character and tells the story.
As a Christian, I’m writing my own story, a story I want a world to read. If I want my watching world to see my faith as vibrant and relevant, then I need to reflect how I’m reacting to God’s story as expressed in the pages of the Bible.
A church I recently attended brought this message home to me as they sang the song, “All Things Work Together” by Twila Paris during their worship service. The song quotes this marvelous verse from Romans 8:28, but it was the chorus that caught my attention:
So we lift up our hearts
Lift up our hands
Lift up our hope in You
Though we may not yet understand
We know it’s true.
See how Twila pens her reaction to the promise of Romans 8:28? She reacts to God’s promise in worship, in trust, and in obedience. She expresses both an internal and an external response to this fact about God’s interaction with the world as expressed in the words of Romans 8:28.
Just as we naturally react through our emotions and behavior in everyday life, my reaction to God’s Word needs to be both internal and external. Without the internal responses of trust and worship, I become duty bound, legalistic, and ritualistic. Without the external response of changing my behavior, I pay lip service to the gospel message, unwilling to express my faith through obedience.
Just as the characters I create can’t passively watch the world blow up, I need to react to what I read in the Bible. James 1:22 tells me to be a doer of the word and not a hearer only. 2 Tim 3:17 says that God’s Word has the capacity to prepare me fully for every good work. Only then, will the world find my faith story attractive and engaging. If I fail to respond to God’s promises, presence, power and provision, I become a two dimensional Christian, flat – like something lacking salt. Yuck. Revelations 3 describes the passive church at Laodicea as being lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – just . . . there. Yuck.
So here is my challenge to you: Take a verse like Romans 8:28, Is 41:10, Heb 13:5,6, Phil 4,13,19. r maybe a Bible story like David and Goliath or the widow with her jar of oil. Pretend you are Twila Paris. Write out the words of the verse or story in an arrangement you like, then write a chorus, expressing your reaction to what God has said, promised or done. Do you feel comfort? Encouragement? Relief? Confusion? Fear? Then write what will you do? How will knowledge of God’s interaction in human history change the way you act? Will knowing that He enabled a teenage boy to kill a nine-foot giant motivate you to approach impossible life obstacles with greater courage? Will reading Philippians 4:19 lead you to give generously to someone more needy because you believe God will provide your needs as well?
What is your story, your song?