I’m grateful to share this guest post, written by Jen Rose, with you. Jen is a writer, poet, radio nerd, and hopeless book and music addict. She’s a born and raised Floridian (apparently an endangered species) and has been blogging since she begged an Internet acquaintance for a LiveJournal invite in 2002. Her musings on faith, art, and the writing life can be found at www.jenwritesstuff.com.
Sometimes I wonder why God would create a beautiful universe with a fatal flaw.
It’s one of those questions good Christians aren’t “supposed” to ask, the kind we’re tempted to shrug off, saying, “well, His ways are higher you know.” But if you think about it long enough, it’s a question that can make the stoutest faith waver, enough to cause you to stumble on a wave just as you were getting the hang of walking on water. Why would an all-knowing, sovereign God design a world that he knew would fall? Why would an all-powerful God not board up Eden’s door before Evil could slither inside?
In Chapter 7 of The Mind of the Maker, Sayers tackles the mystery of evil, reasoning her way to the end “we may redeem the Fall by a creative act.” (p. 107) Through the entire book, she builds an argument for creativity as a central aspect of the image of God, and in Chapter 9, she explores the impetus for any creation: love. Not fuzzy sentimentality or possessive control, but an all-consuming fire.
“A work of creation is a work of love, and that love is the most ruthless of all the passions, sparing neither itself, nor its object, nor the obstacles that stand in its way.” (129)
Sayers writes with the sharp mind of a critic and the heart of a storyteller. As an author of mystery novels, her default concept of creativity is writing: how the author is compelled to tell a story, and how she creates characters out of love and sends them into conflict and even to death. No loving storyteller (or certainly no good one) spares the characters pain or forces them to act contrary to who they are, and even an imperfect writer would tell you that any story needs conflict to have any meaning.
I think of authors who talk about mourning with and for their characters, even though they have full power to snatch their beloved creations away from any danger. In his essay “The Bond Between Creature and Creator,” (http://www.rabbitroom.com/2012/05/the-bond-between-creature-and-creator/) author A.S. Peterson describes writing a character’s tragedy like this:
“I reached a point one night when Fin, my heroine, had come to the lowest point in her life. All her dreams had fallen apart; everything she’d hoped for was gone. She was in total despair and she was crying out to God: Why?
When I heard that cry, I cried. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that I sat in my chair and shook. I felt her pain so clearly and so personally, because, of course, she was part of me, wasn’t she? She was my own creation. Created in my own image. To whom was she crying out if not to me?
Why? she cried. And then I realized that I had the answer. My answer was: Because I know the end of the story. “Just wait,” I wanted to tell her. “Just wait!” But of course she couldn’t hear that. She was lost in the cornfield with no idea of what lay over the immense horizon–and no way home.”
The world was good, the world is fallen, and the world will be redeemed. It’s the heart of the Gospel, the lifeblood of a tale that stretches to the beginning, when God spoke worlds into existence, from the most far-flung galaxies to the tiniest organisms in the sea. He breathed a handful of dirt to life, then wiped the dust from his hands and called it good.
And then, as creation is prone to do, it broke his heart. Again and again. When pride told his children they could be like gods, when the first brothers fell victim to the first murder, when the Artist looked upon his beautiful work and, in perhaps the saddest story ever told, said, “I am sorry that I made them.” Even Jesus, the Son of God himself, stood at Lazarus’ tomb and wept, though he knew the power of resurrection was in his hands and the grave would soon be empty. History is a long line of disappointments, failures, death.
And yet, love burns on. What else could keep the broken world running but a passion to see the plot through to the end?
“A passion of this temper does not resign itself to sacrifice, but embraces it, and sweeps the world up in the same embrace… love is the Energy of creation.” (136)
Any artist can agree that in order to finish a work, they must do the work, and sometimes the resistance is so great that we, pale shadows of the Creator that we are, all too often give up. An Idea must flame with Energy, because even as it fights coming to life, a “violent urge” to be born pushes it into the light of day. The Fall set this universe careening into entropy, but the same creation groans and aches to be remade. Every day, it is being remade, even now.
Imagine God bending over the world, painting another magnificent sunset, calling the seasons to turn, and whispering, “Just wait. Just wait.”
Sometimes, I do still wonder what an unfallen world would look like. Perhaps it’s not so helpful to consider though, because in the end, a more glorious thing happened. What was meant for Evil was remade into Good by the grace of God, stepping into frail bones and blood and living in our dirt for a while. Jesus’ sacrifice wasn’t a resigned, self-pitying thing that had to be done. It wasn’t a discreet, sentimental cleanup job. It was accepting mockery, torture, death, and ultimately, taking victory over death.
It was perfect love, all along, crafting a better Story than any literary genius could dream up.
Sayers goes on to say, “The universe is not a finished work.” It’s like a book that the characters live in and read, or a play where the actors are the audience and no one has seen the script, or a film still being edited. No one is allowed to just watch; we all participate, improvising our parts as we go, looking to the Author for clues to the journey’s end.
So maybe, without a Fall, we wouldn’t know the depths of his ruthless love, the fire that consumes us, scars us, and leaves us pure in the end. Maybe the joy and pain of creation wouldn’t have quite the same meaning. It’s impossible to know what could have been.
But knowing the tale is still unfinished and the Maker hasn’t given up on his masterpiece is a comforting thing. In time, the pain will be a memory, and somewhere in eternity, these days will be part of the epic tale written from the beginning, a love story like no other.
For more from The Mind of the Maker reading group: