This is a long introduction, but I need to provide a bit of background before I get around to my main point. If you know me, you know I like to read. I come by it honestly—my mom was a librarian, and I was indoctrinated at an early age. I don’t watch TV, I rarely go to movies, but I read several books a week. In high school, I exhausted the entire Orange County (California) library system, reading every single science fiction and fantasy book they owned. Heinlein, Asimov, Anne McCaffrey, Niven, Arthur C. Clark, LeGuin… the list is long and I’ve enjoyed them all.
Now I’m trying to expand my horizons. I’ve enjoyed humor, adventure stories, spy thrillers, historical fiction, and detective stories and murder mysteries, as well as a wide variety of non-fiction. And yes, I decided to try some “Christian fiction.”
My first task was to weed out all the Amish romances. (Why the Amish fixation? I have no idea.) Then I thumbed through some of the remaining books and realized that, with some very worthy exceptions, 90% of Christian fiction is about beautiful, sweet young women who fall in love with handsome, hard-working men. The stories frequently include one or more adorable babies. They take place in a small town, or on a ranch or farm. If you really want a best-seller, add a wedding.
Curious how these books can be so popular, I decided to read seven of them, chosen at random. It took me one week. The stories were poignant, the heroines too good to be true, and the men either started out faultless, or were handsome scoundrels who eventually found God. Unfortunately, most of the writing was pretty awful. It was more or less what I expected.
Being “Christian” fiction, all these stories included descriptions of the characters’ faith (or lack of faith, although they always found God by the end of the book). They did (or did not) go to church, they prayed, they tried to trust God that everything would work out just right. And this is where I had a problem.
Here are some sample prayers: “Please let this man whom I’m attracted to love me.” “Please make my business plan a success, so I can marry this beautiful woman.” “Please let him/her survive the rattlesnake bite/fall off a horse/tornado/attack by bandits because I just realized that I really do love them after all.” (And by the way, that thrilling climax always occurred at exactly 83% of the way through the book. Interesting.)
Without exception, the characters prayed that God would grant them their desires. The prayers were all about them. Not once did anyone pray, “Not my will, but yours be done.”
Of course, we’re allowed, even encouraged, to ask God for what we need. Just read the Lord’s Prayer—“Give us this day our daily bread.” But in that same passage, Jesus also said, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done….” We seem to have forgotten that part.
We’re good at asking for what is on our own hearts, but how much time do we spend praying for what’s on God’s heart? Do we even know what His deepest concerns are?
We need to change our focus. Instead of asking God to bless our plans, we need to ask how we can join Him in His plans. We need to stop praying “God, please make me happy” and start asking “God, how can I make You happy?”
We need to get our focus off ourselves and onto God.
And then, maybe, we can write some new Christian fiction.