Last night we watched the Count of Monte Cristo.
My friend Anne-Marie just finished the book and throughout she noted all the ways the movie does not match, which were vaguely familiar from the last-long-time-ago that I read it.
And she said all the names with perfect French pronunciation which made her version sound way more beautiful.
But I was tired.
And kind of enjoyed that Mondego is clearly the bad guy. No redeeming qualities there.
And Dantes gets to marry Mercedes– who only marries Mondego because she is expecting Dantes’ child and thinks he is dead.
And Dantes’ sidekick feels like a character out of Princess Bride.
And at the end Dantes kills Mondego after first offering him mercy, but Mondego is clearly SO bad that you’re relieved.
But, as we were discussing afterwards, there is a depth in the book, that is lost in the movie.
There are fewer consequences.
Less realization and redemption.
A true loss that results from choosing simplicity over complexity.
Beauty and power are diminished in the attempt to, as Ashley Larkin would say, put a “pretty bow on pain.”
This was entirely missing–
“…pray now and then for a man who, like Satan, believed himself for an instant to be equal to God, but who realized in all humility that supreme power and wisdom are in the hands of God alone…Until the day when God shall deign to reveal the future to man, all human wisdom is summed up in these two words,– Wait and hope.” ~Dumas
This weekend I went to the Faith & Culture Writing Conference.
And it was a place of complexity for me.
A place of realization and redemption.
An experience that was not always comfortable, but that was beautiful.
On Friday, in one writing session, Seith Haines asked us to write down several writers we admire and then to share what is it about their voice that draws us to them.
I wrote down several, but one of mine was– Lore Ferguson.
And it’s because I see her as a bridge builder.
I am in a writing group with her and I know what she believes.
She doesn’t waiver on the convictions that God cements in her heart through His Word and the Holy Spirit, but she engages in dialogue and friendship and relationship with those who may be on the other side of the precipice.
And this weekend was one of bridge-building for me.
My favorite session was one with Terry Glaspey where he shared about “writing that endures” and I was struck by how many of his descriptors also depict relationships that endure…
Writing that endures:
— reveals the writer to be a fellow struggler. We are drawn to those who show that they struggle alongside us.
— takes a risk.
— has the power of empathy. It has the ability to feel what others feel.
— loves its characters as God loves them. Without that love, they will just be chess pieces. If they are loved, they will breathe.
— connects with people’s needs, both practical and perceived.
— focuses on questions that are relevant to every person of every age.
— may not be immediately recognized.
— is validated by simply obedience in responding to God’s call.
As I’ve invited other writers to the conference in the past, I’ve added the qualifier-disclaimer–
“Just know it’s a little edgy. Their faith umbrella is a big one.”
In part, those words came from a place of fear.
Fear of a diluted gospel.
Fear of fingers being pried open on issues that I want to hold tightly.
But it also came from just that “awkward middle school fear” that rises when you’re not sure which lunch table you’re going to sit at or whether or not you’re going to be invited to the slumber party.
I sat next to a fellow writer in one of the sessions who I really enjoyed. I just appreciated talking with her and felt a sense of connection. As she shared about her life and experiences, I started caring about her. And then after the conference I went and read some of her writing and found that on many issues–we very much disagree.
But instead of feeling anxious, I felt hopeful.
Because a bridge to dialogue was built and without relationship, without love, even Truth can be a clanging gong, a noisy symbol.
And as Kari Patterson shared, “We tell the truth for a redemptive purpose.”
And as Terry Glaspey mentioned, “The story is the way we argue heart to heart.”
And as Emily Freeman encouraged, “Art that leaves an impression is not the bossy kind.”
And as Seth Haines reminded, “Writing changes the hearts and minds of the people.”
Because as Ray Family proclaimed–
“The artist is the window washer…”
The window washer, in God’s grace and power, is the one who clears away the mud that mars our vision– the pre-conceived notions, the stereotypes, the misunderstandings, that block us from really seeing one another and really communicating our message– and His message.
When “In Christ Alone” echoed off the walls, filling the room with hundreds of voices, all flowing from individuals made in the likeness, and in the love, of our Heavenly Father, the words were grounding and solid.
For me, this weekend at the Faith & Culture Writer’s Conference was full of God’s kindness and His good gifts. Within the first few minutes on Friday, He brought along a kindred spirit.
There was a whole lot of culture— honing writing skills, learning from others, learning about others, appreciating powerful words and art and music. It wasn’t the simplistic movie Monte Cristo, it was the novel, full of complexity and complication and recognized layers. Not easy for me to box up with a bow, but so very beautiful.
There was also much faith— risk taken, bridges built, trust established and Christ proclaimed as Lord and Savior.
I hadn’t planned to share this, but I want to.
The article I submitted to the conference writing contest was chosen as the Non-fiction winner. It was not something I’d expected and I sent it in watermarked with doubt. While I don’t want to need outside validation when it comes to writing, God knows me and that sometimes I do need some dew on the fleece. It was such an over and above gift from Him. I’ll tell you why…
Emily Freeman nudged us to write from our Tuesdays. Our normal days. The ones that are filled with our normal people and our humdrum dailies– the mounds of laundry, overflowing kitchen trash bags, and counters blobbed with toothpaste.
I went to the conference with a nagging sense of– I am a Tuesday.
And most of these people are Friday nights.
And my essay was a Tuesday piece.
Because I am often a Tuesday writer.
Winning the writing contest was a welcoming of my Tuesday-ness.
An encouraging hug from a community that I wasn’t sure would-could embrace who I am as a writer.
And really, it was just a reminder that we all have (and are) Tuesdays.
As it is with writing that endures, we are all revealed to be fellow strugglers, breathing characters loved by God, who wrestle with questions that are relevant to all, as we meet the needs of others and strive for empathy. Our identity and validation is in relationship with Christ and in the simple obedience of responding to God’s call.
I am so thankful.
And Lord willing, I will be there next year in all my Tuesday attire.
Thank you to all who dreamed, planned, and brought the conference to fruition and thank you for joining me in this space…
P.S. I didn’t quote one of my favorite speakers– Tony Kriz. I was so caught up in his storytelling that I didn’t take any notes. I’m not sure how to say this poetically, so I’m just going to say it. I knew Tony back in college, when he didn’t have a beard. But we never really had a friendship. In fact, to me, it felt a bit more like a– disconnectship. It has been 18 years since then and God has changed and grown us both. I didn’t know (or take the time to understand) who he is now. In fact, I made assumptions at a distance through a muddy window. But, hearing from him was one of my favorite parts of the weekend. A bridge was built. He had to leave early and suddenly because of a family emergency and I am praying (and will be) that he and his family will sense God’s deep love surrounding them. I was so thankful to hear his story and I am still picturing the Easter candles trickling down from the mountain into the little Albanian villages below.