More Like Rowboats Than Rubber Duckies

What does this have to do with missionaries and book reviews? Keep reading...

A missionary who spoke at our church once told us, “When trying to do the work God has called you to, pray knowing it’s all up to God, but work as hard as you would if it were all up to you.” I have always found that concept challenging to get my head around, but it has lingered in my mind since that day at least six years ago when I heard it preached.

As I was reading some Amazon reviews of Christian speculative fiction, I found it interesting that repeatedly, if reviewers were going to complain about something, it was often that the god of the books in question intervened and conveniently solved the characters’ problems. This brings me to a question about my own writing: how can I depict the way God steps in as the only solution to our problems when they become bigger than mortal shoulders can bear, without making the God-driven solutions to the issue seem too “convenient?”

From what I can glean, readers want the characters to triumph. They want the story to pose crises for the good guys, and they want the characters to prevail, but they feel cheated if that solution comes from a plea of desperation that God meets with a divine solution. I wonder, is this visceral reaction just the readers’ sin nature speaking? In our flesh, we all want to dominate…from the beginning, Satan has always known the hope of being like God has been the quick route to our souls. After all, who would know such a thing better than the very entity who fell prey to the same pitfall?

But as Christians, I think we have a tendency to err on the opposite side of the spectrum. Because we don’t want to pull the reins out of God’s hands (so to speak…as if we could really do such a thing) we sit back and passively “wait on the Lord.” The stage I’m in right now, professionally, personally, creatively, seems to bear the message that while God ordains the events that occur from day to day in this world, he also intends for me to be an active participant in the actual manifestation of those events. I’m reminded of Ephesians 2:10, which tells us God made us, and when he fashioned each of us, he had a plan for what we’d be good for accomplishing in his creation.

He made us more like rowboats than rubber duckies.

Through the tools and talents God has given each of us, he expects us to labor through the current of life, upstream when necessary, not just bob along with plastic Christian smiles on our faces. Doing what God wants us to do is likely to cause a few blisters on our spiritual hands and leave us a little sore at times. But I’m learning a little discomfort doesn’t mean I’m not doing what God wants me to do. I’m beginning to see the true indicator of whether I’m doing what God would have me do is not the ease of the labor, but the fruit it bears at the end.


So what about you? How do you walk the line between allowing God to work and being the worker that brings his earthly best to fruition?

About Rebecca Minor

Rebecca P Minor draws perspective from her pursuit of various art forms, including writing, drawing, and music (singing mostly, though there was a time when a trombone figured in.) A 1997 graduate from The University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Becky earned a BFA in animation. Since then, she has worked as a character animator, a freelance artist, an art teacher, and most importantly, a wife to her husband Scott and mother of three boys. She is in the process of republishing her current body of work. The first installment of The Windrider Saga, Divine Summons, is available as an ebook novella on Amazon. She also has short stories available under the umbrella of The Windrider Canticles.

12 comments on “More Like Rowboats Than Rubber Duckies

  1. Oh, excellent post, Swan(you’ve been dubbed).

  2. One, I’ve decided never to read reviews of speculative fiction on Amazon, so I would never have known about this gripe had you not brought it up.

    “Playing God” is a tough line in fiction. I’m very careful about putting words in God’s mouth and giving stage-direction to the Creator of everything. My answer to the criticism would be the ever-vague “it depends on the story.” If God’s intervention has been integral from page one, it is no cheat. If the writer uses a miracle to write herself out of a corner, well, that’s a deity of a different color. The reader does know the difference. If the writer doesn’t, a good critique group should be able to cry “foul!” before Amazon reviewers have a chance.

    In my personal life, I’ve erred far too much on the “being-a-rowboat” side lately. For my own sanity, I’m pasting that plastic smile on and riding God’s currents with the understanding that I do not, will not and cannot control everything in my life no matter how much I want to. I’m learning to accept what comes as God’s will for my life and say “thank you.” He hasn’t failed me yet.
    On the other hand, this may be one of those balancing issues for the Christian where the tendency is to go overboard one way or the other and require a course correction mid-stream. Christianity is a journey, as well as a destination.

    And “Swan” is good. I can use “Swan.”

  3. Fortunately, the Lord is patient with our turn-arounds and corrections that we seem to need so constantly. Thanks for sharing your personal angle, Robynn. Deciding how to depict God in fiction, especially when your world is a little different than earth, is a tricky endeavor indeed.

  4. My Dearest Swan,

    When reading fiction, we Christians need to keep in mind that this genre is after all,”Fiction” we cannot expect the truth from what is make believe. We do not want to depict God in an untrue light but we are not in a real world scenario so how can we say what He would do in our make believe world?

    • Every word you wrote is music to my ears, netMom. 🙂 I’m glad to see there are folks who understand the vantage point I come from in my own work. Here’s a little prayer that the majority of people who pick up my work will be as reasonable and wise as you.

  5. Very good article Ms. Minor, excellently insightful.

  6. Thanks, Sam! I’m glad you got a little insight from it. I’m also glad you dropped by and shared that encouragement with me today.

  7. I think for our fiction to be realistic, we need to involve God while remembering that he doesn’t solve problems for us — he gives us what we need to solve the problem. For example, in Karen Hancock’s Guardian King series, God never steps in and makes the hero and heroine’s problems go away. But He gives them the faith, knowledge, strength, and courage they need to defeat their enemies.

    In my worklife, I try to remember that I am hands and feet, and He is the boss. He’ll tell me what to do, but He won’t do it for me.

  8. Great post. I agree. And we as people all have our ways of erring – on one side of the spectrum or the other.

    I too try to be careful about the way I portray “God” in my world. I very rarely let the reader listen in on the occasions of direct voice. I do double duty with the rare prophecies instead of adding more. Although He is the key to the ultimate victory of the series and He (as me, so to say) places all needful tools and resources, but it is after all they can do. The characters must move forward with faith to the edge of darkness and take that step into it, if they are to even survive.

    I have characters who feel that God has never done “anything significant” and expect the little laborers to pull it all off. You know, like the “manager” who stretches out on the lawn chair, sipping lemonade and shouting directions.

    I also have characters who resent God for meddling too much. They look back at their lives where they thought that they were acting on their own but yet recognize that all along they were following “prophecy” or God’s will.

  9. I like the concept of the characters having to take the step into the darkness…it fits the whole idea that God doesn’t often equip us before the event, but is glad to see us through the darkness one step, one tool, one act at a time.

Leave a Reply to Kristen Stieffel Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: