How Did I Know That I Wanted to Be a Writer?
My ideological awakenings were not in the order most suspect. I was well taught the Reformed faith in my catechism class in junior high school, working through G.I. Williamson’s Shorter Catechism for Study Groups. Though I had, of course, come from a Reformed family, and been raised in the Reformed church, that was when it all clicked for me. But before Reformed theology became a passion I was introduced to free market economics. Just as Reformed theology asked us to embrace a few basic principles, and then to work out the implications of those principles with relentless passion, so with free market economics there was a certain elegance and internal coherence that just made me fall in love.
I was in high school when Reformed theology moved from a matter of conviction to a passion for me. My father came and taught on the sovereignty of God at the school I attended (Wichita Collegiate School in Kansas) and then left town. I was left to defend him and it. It was at that time, early in high school when I began to read substantive theology and economics on my own, apart from school assignments. I remember reading A Christian Manifesto on the flight home after hearing Francis Schaeffer speak at the first Congress on the Bible.
My desire to be a writer, however, was driven more by novelists than ideological salesmen. It was reading Pat Conroy, C.S. Lewis, William Golding and Anthony Burgess that made me believe that there was a power in words beyond merely the power to inform. It was reading not my father’s most beloved The Holiness of God but my father’s novel Thy Brother’s Keeper that awakened in me the hunger to write. Truth certainly moved me, but beauty made my heart sing. To this day praise for a defense of a sound and biblical idea pleases me. Praise for a turn of a phrase, on the other hand, makes my week.
When I was in high school I read a dozen books on writing, and the arcane art of getting published. When I was in college I published my first book. But it was not until I received my first letter praising a column I had written in Tabletalk magazine that I began to dream with confidence that I could put words together in a way that could serve the kingdom of God. In turn, it was wrestling over every word of every issue of Tabletalk, as an editorial associate, that taught me that my deepest love was for language.
The great Scot, Eric Liddell, used to say that when he ran he felt God’s pleasure. I feel the same joy when I am able to surprise and delight with words, when I am able to take an orthodox notion and turn it just a few degrees and release before the reader’s eye the glory of the gospel. I don’t, of course, know what God has in store for me. I do, however, know that He has been pleased to allow me to play in His garden of language, even as He has allowed me to explore, through the glory of language, His glory. I am content to stay in that garden the rest of my earthly journey. For there is no greater ultimate glory than His own, and no greater earthly glory than to reveal His glory through the power of words.