I have a friend who has made a seeming mess of his life. This is nothing he wouldn't tell you himself and already has, in a way. Whenever we talk he makes it no secret that the path behind him is strewn with destruction.
But here's the thing about my friend: for one brief moment and then twenty more, in ways that wouldn't be known to him until nearly a decade later, he was leaving a indelible mark on this writer's life. It was his words, yes of course, editorials in the Wall Street Journal or evangelical news magazines, sentences crafted with poise and prose and pointed statements. But it was his beautiful self-deprecating confessionals that truly won me over.
"If a Christian can be a writer like this and a sinner like this, there is hope for me," I remember thinking one day after one such editorial rife with confessions of failure.
There are two camps of writers from where I stand: those who love words, who craft sentences that go down as smooth as brandy with a burning aftertaste, and those who love truth or opinion and wield it every which way no matter how it sounds.
To marry the two is an awful and beautiful call, and it's done so rarely, see?
One only needs to read twitter or the myriad of blogs in the world to see that opinions are never lacking. But insight and beauty? A paragraph (And who reads paragraphs anymore? But that is another post altogether.) that knocks out and draws close in the same moment? A rarity. Gold, if you ask me.
But to craft such words, the author has to be willing to wrestle. Not just wrestle with himself, but wrestle with God. And not just wrestle with God, but wrestle in full view of the world. And not just wrestle in view of the world, but do it in such a way to make the rest of us know it is a beautiful thing to wrestle well in the light of a God who sees and knows already.
Few are willing to sell tickets to that show.
So when you find such a writer (and please find one at least? They are rare, but they are there. Scour the internet, read the last article in every magazine, ask a friend with good taste in writing and truth.), tell them, if you can. Tell them their words changed you, shifted something inside of you. They will wave it off and talk about the unsanctified deeps of their soul, but tell them.
It is no easy task to craft a sentence, especially in a time when so many believe they're writers just because they have something to say. Saying something and saying it well are two different sayings, and we would all do well to remember that and keep our tongues still. So tell the ones who have said something and said it well that they have done so.
And maybe someday, nearly ten years after you first read their article, you will find yourself friends and fellow admirers of one another, and—which is more beautiful and humbling—you will find that it is now your own written wrestlings that comfort and encourage them in the battleworn deeps of their soul.