Getting Dark Now
This post will be a little stranger than usual. I ask you to follow me all the way to the end.
This is your chance to bow out. This is your chance to close the tab and just pretend like you didn’t see this. This is your chance.
I once had a friend who isn’t my friend anymore ask me about how I wrote about such dark things as I do, in my fiction writing. This friend was, I think, a little scared that maybe I really am deeply troubled(they probably never knew just how much). They would read about things that occur in my books and they would give me sidelong glances. They would sometimes question specific things in what I wrote as being too dark.
It’s a common observation of my readers. I have family who just won’t read my writing. Friends too. And that’s okay.
But is it okay for me to write about things like drugs, pornography, incest, child abuse, murder, torture, rape, greed, envy, pride? Is it okay? I struggle with this question because I am not known for being polite. Considerate? Maybe. But I use the word polite there in the social sense.
In its day, the idea of speaking about crucifixion was taboo. You didn’t bring up the execution of prisoners around company. You didn’t talk about the reality of their plight: that they were pinned to a piece of wood and then had their legs broken so they couldn’t draw breath and that they suffocated an agonizing four to five minutes to their end. And today we wear crosses around our necks. We tattoo them on our arms.
And hear me: I am not justifying what I write about as being as bad as or as good as any of that. I am saying that we decide certain things are polite to speak of and certain things are not. But in the eyes of God, it’s all the same.
My pastor has a wonderful and terrible saying I will try to recreate for you here.
Sin is blue. And because sin is blue, every part of me is a shade of blue. Some parts are a light, powder blue and some parts are deepest indigo, but every part is blue. When I open my mouth, my tongue is blue. My words are blue. My thoughts are definitely blue.
At the end of my life, I will still be blue. But when my life is finally done, so is that blue – whatever shade it has faded to by then.
My writing is blue.
I have actually written a single non-fiction, theological book. And that book, however light the shade, has some blue in it. It can’t not. But my fiction contains my sin. And others’ sins. And sins I only know of by reputation and research.
But what I am discovering in my life is that the blue is just going to be there. It’s already there, even if I coat it with the grimy off-white of my righteousness. It still shows through. But what I try to do, what I hope to do and probably get wrong even so, is not to celebrate the blue. I don’t want you marveling over any shade of blue, ever. I want, instead, for you to nod and sigh. I would hope against hope for a thought process like this,
Oh wow. That’s rough. That’s really dark. That’s… wow, that’s shameful. How could the hero do that? Is he the hero? Why would he act that way? Doesn’t he know? Oh, well, I suppose I have done stupid things like that too. I guess, when it comes down to it, it maybe hits close to home. I remember when that was done to me, too.
That’s idealistic, I grant you that. And there is almost no way I could envision all of those thoughts occurring at the same time, but I know that these days I want the gospel to be like a suit of pure light I wear. Whenever I sit down to read a book, it’s shining down on those pages, illuminating even the darkest corners. When I am not wearing my lit-up suit? The darkness doesn’t seem so dark. It seems relatable, almost comfortable. But when I am, when the light is shining, I see it for what it is.
I hope that this is the way I write, too. I hope that when I write about werewolves on the moon (true story), some of the gospel is there too, shining.
So why all this metaphor? Why all this exposition on writing, on shades of blue, on suits of light?
John the Beloved is a powerful and poetic author in the New Testament. He said this in his first letter,
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 1 John 1:7 ESV
And so in a sort of inverted answer to that, I posted this to Twitter this morning:
There is no fellowship in darkness.
— Gabe Ain’t Playin’🐙 (@GabePosey) September 26, 2017
John doesn’t pretend that there is no such thing as darkness. He doesn’t in any way. He confronts it. He looks it in the eye. And then he says that when we walk in the light, we are one. But when we walk in darkness? We are truly, utterly alone. Even if others have joined us there in the dark.
What does that have to do with writing? I remember reading a Frank Perretti book years ago called The Oath. It was… well, I am not what you would call a fan. And I recall that there was some controversy when it came out because it included the word “bitch” and it alluded to a man having sex with a woman outside of marriage. I stress and repeat the word alluded here.
Christians were offended. They were offended because of what amounted to a kid gloves treatment of a somewhat daily sin. And this morning as my beehive brain began to coalesce around these disparate ideas, I wondered if the Cultural Christian sphere has decided that sin is too impolite to admit, let alone talk about.
Because John also says this,
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 1 John 1:8 ESV
My hope is that with my writing, I honor 1 John 1:8 and 1:7. That I walk in the light and I say that I have sin and am in need of a savior. Maybe we have become too accustomed to the sin of politeness. Maybe we don’t walk in the light but, instead, say we have no sin. And maybe my writing has been about this since it began but I’m only now seeing it.
It’s a tense place to be. I don’t have some tidy ending to this piece. But this space is where I just bare my soul and see what happens. So there you have it.