The Hand that Writes the Story
by C. S. Johnson
In literature, irony is defined as when what happens in a story is the opposite of what is expected to happen. Growing up, I was told God specifically designed me to show others something about him no one else would be able to show through the story of my life.
Personally, throughout my school years I thought it was my job to show others God really did give out superpowers, because I had the power of invisibility! I was the ‘good girl,’ who largely did what I was supposed to, trustworthy, never questioned of my intent, and mostly disregarded by others because I didn’t do anything “fun.” I went to church, read a lot, and did my homework. I also did a lot of writing, which I loved. Don’t get me wrong, I still had my conniptions. I wasn’t perfect, still fighting with my sisters and my parents, among other things. But mostly a total do-gooder, often overlooked by my peers. I did feel like I didn’t have much of a voice a lot, which led to my insecurity complex.
There were good things about being invisible, of course. But I thought I would grow up this way for God, as a silent, largely passive well-meaning shadow. I would grow up, become a missionary teacher, travel the world sharing his love with others, adopting children, and have my scribbles of writing as a keepsake, amusing reminders of my time with Jesus spent in silent conversations.
I was so certain of this, I even told God I was ready to go and do just that, because I thought it was what he wanted.
And here is what I really think I am supposed to reveal about God: God is not only the orchestrator of new beginnings and grand endings, but he is also the God of Plot Twists along the way.
My mother’s gift of prophecy came true first. After I finished telling her of my plans, this was her response: “You just watch. You’ll go off to college and find a nice man you’ll want to marry.” She still laughs about that. So surprise! There went my plans for not getting married, and my mission plans went on hold, as my husband is still in college and we need to stay here until he finishes. And my adoption plans are pushed back, as we just started a family this year with our new son, another surprise.
The teaching part of my plan falling through was the most shocking surprise. My failure to “love” teaching accompanied me to a trapped reality where I was living once more as a voiceless entity, a shadow of nothing, and nothing special in my career field of choice.
At that point, I had tried to do everything I thought I was supposed to, but nothing really seemed to be going as planned. While some of it was good, a lot of it made me feel powerless, especially with my job. I turned to writing as an escape, largely to entertain myself. Toward the end of the school year, as I was still stuck working in a job I hated, I was prompted (largely by my mother) to enter a writing contest. I submitted my manuscript for a book I had been working on, the first book in a series I had planned out in my mind. I had always thought of publishing my work, and even tried before college to get somewhere, but it seemed to be a dead end. I didn’t know how to do it, I didn’t know anyone in it, and I was scared of rejection. But at that point, I figured what did it really matter if I won or lost? I had done nearly everything in my life I thought was expected of me, and I was depressed.
The contest I entered was the 2012 MTL Writing Contest. I won second place out of over 250 submissions, and my book, Slumbering, was published through WestBow Press. In that moment, it was pure validation of myself, my talent, and meaning in my life; it was a moment which redefined everything. EVERYTHING. In literary talk, it is called “catharsis.”
Suddenly I found myself taking a step back, looking at everything in new light. It was like seeing invisible ink burn into true color: God doesn’t want me to be ‘good;’ he wants me to be myself, and embrace him; and then he will use me to do great things for him.
Since MTL sponsored my book’s publication, I have had the pleasure of meeting my readers, engaging with other authors and bloggers, and all sorts of others whom I never would have had the chance to converse with had I remained in my life of set expectations. My book has become a talking point for apologetics, teen issues, and superhero debates. And it is only book one of a series!
Oh, I still have (many many) battles. I still yearn for the day some publisher knocks down my door with a 2.4 million dollar book deal for the rest of the series. I smile as I twiddle my thumbs, imagining all sorts of literary agents to do battle over my latest work. (In my mind they wear Sock’em Boppers.) I fear, having found my voice, it will get taken away or I will lose it to the tides of obscurity or writer’s block.
But now I have hope like I have never had hope before. I never thought my life would be like this. I started out writing a plan for my life, but God has been editing it along the way. (He even has the red ink pen of the cross to use as a correction pen!) It has been his hand behind my voice, his music accompanying my story.
I am beginning to see more of my purpose in revealing God to others. I think through my work, I will make others see God as the God of Irony, who loves to see his children laugh when their befuddlement breaks through to new revelation, and everything we thought about God and life shifts into a new alignment.
Of course, I could be wrong, but if I am, it will probably be in the most ironic way possible.
C. S. Johnson is the author of Slumbering, book one of The Starlight Chronicles series for young adults. With a gift of sarcasm and an apologetic heart, she currently lives in Atlanta with her family, cats, and caffeine addiction.