Believe me, I know what you’re thinking–“is Erin crazy? Everyone knows that Passion Sunday is another name for Palm Sunday, and it is not Palm Sunday!” No, Lent has not slipped by–it is not Holy Week just yet. Rest assured, my dear readers, I am anything but crazy. (At least, not crazy in that way.) Traditionally, the Sunday between Laetare Sunday and Palm Sunday is called Passion Sunday.
Today, for a change of pace, I’m going to tell a little story. But, before I begin, it’s actually an allegory, so if you dislike such things, you might want to just skip to the bottom.
Once there was a little girl–or maybe a young woman–or maybe an older lady– in a sealed room, and maybe her name was Erin. She was sitting at a desk in the sealed room, writing. But she wasn’t writing for the fun of it, oh no; as she was writing, tears dropped from her eyes onto the paper, and though they blurred the ink a little, she could still read what she was writing, and she couldn’t erase it.
Standing on either side of her were two figures; one black, and one that seemed to be blood red. As she finished writing each paper, the figure in black took it, spat on it, and dropped it into a large, black box that was chained to her ankle.
The man in red was whispering kindly words in her ear; it was hard to think of the crimson color because of the white glow around him and the light in his words.
At length, she ran out of ink. She turned to the man in red and said, “I have no more ink.”
“Then write it in pencil,” the man whispered back. So she wrote in pencil, and though her tears didn’t blur it so much, every time she wiped her arm accidentally–or purposefully, perhaps– across the paper, the letters smeared. She looked up hopefully at the man in red, and he smiled gently back.
Finally, she finished writing, just as the lead broke off short on the very last pencil. The man in red leaned over her shoulder. “Now write the pardons.”
The girl replied, “But sir, I have nothing left to write with!”
“Then I will write them,” the man said, and as she gazed at him in amazement, she suddenly saw that his garments were really white, but had been stained red with his blood. The man extended a finger, which was covered in blood from the wound in his palm, and on each of the papers, he wrote the pardons. The man in black screamed, unheard, at them, from the other side of the table; and he had reason to scream, for the more the man in white wrote, the lighter the box grew, and the looser the chain on the girl’s leg became.
At last, when the last paper was signed, the door suddenly sprung open. The girl turned to the man and embraced him in a sudden show of gratitude, then looked down at herself in embarrassment, expecting her clothes also to be stained red, but rather, though they had been dusty and dirty, and covered with grime and grease and splatters of mud and ink, her garments had suddenly turned snow-white, and gleamed like the sun. She stared in wonder at the man, and he smiled.
“Go,” he said. “And remember, I am with you always.”
At the risk of telling a twice-told tale, that’s my story, as original as I could make it, but as C.S. Lewis once said,
All my stories are only echoes of the Great Story.
Wow, I’m quoting Lewis a lot this Lent… 😛
Anyway, I’m telling this story for a reason (obviously). I won’t insult my readers’ intelligence by explaining my little parable, since everyone has probably heard similar things before. The point is, that the Gospels express two main truths; an ugly one, and a beautiful one that no one can truly comprehend; it’s so vast, we humans have a hard time wrapping our tiny little minds around it, though not for lack of trying. The ugly one is obvious: man’s predilection for sin, due to the Fall. The beautiful one is mysterious, that God took upon Himself another nature and became man, while at the same time retaining His nature as God. And the reason for this? So that, as a man, God, innocent of all wrongdoing, might make a fitting sacrifice for the sins of men. This is so perfect a coup de grace that it is impossible to imagine something more perfect, beautiful, or mysterious.
As a writer, I have chosen fantasy over apology (theological writing.) I have chosen to approach children as much as may be with my stories. Children need things explained to them by a person, rather than an encyclopedia. They do not easily accept dry truths from a work of philosophy. They proceed on the premise of “show me, don’t tell me.” Hence, children believe the truths they witness in a story, rather than those they read in dry tomes, but have a hard time visualizing, whereas in the story, the characters were living the truths the children seek. This is why good parents read Bible stories aloud to their children. It’s amazing how much children will be able to follow. And children always love a good story. (Yes, I’m against watering down or sugaring the classics for little ones, destroying childhood’s dearest heroes, or disrupting children’s precious belief in legends. If only adults were able to believe so deeply and implicitly!) To quote Madeleine L’Engle,
You have to write the story that wants to be written–and if the story is too difficult for adults, then write it for children.
(Yay! Finally a quote by an author other than Lewis! :-P)
As a writer, I am showing the great truths of the world–joy, despite (and partly because of) suffering, hope despite horrible circumstances, that there are things worth fighting for–such as family, country, and faith–to the children who read my stories. Also, as a writer, I have a powerful duty to do those stories and truths justice.
Books are a dangerous influence. Every book is dangerous to someone or something or some idea, as Ray Bradbury notes in his 50,000 word masterpiece Fahrenheit 451.
Children, too, are dangerous. In fact, they are the most dangerous thing in any given society. They represent its future. It is everyone’s responsibility to safeguard children, not from their parents (who are given the greatest responsibility of all for their children!), but from the wrong ideas, and from the wrong teachers. This is why I choose to write for children.
Children and books are an explosive combination. This is why I believe that the title of “children’s writer” will always be among my favorite labels to wear, and it will always be among the greatest honors I will ever bear. Even if I never receive the Newbery Medal or a Nobel Peace Prize, I will still think my life worthwhile if I write for children.
After all, there is more truth in a children’s book than in a politician’s speech, and more wisdom in what a man reads to his children before bed than in what he tells his cronies on Wall Street.