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I’m not sure if this will work or not. But it seems interesting to me, and I’m hoping it’ll be interesting to you as well. In the process of writing a book, most writers end up writing far more than what remains on a published page. The editing process is one of revising, tightening, and trimming the fat.
Sometimes you change words or improve phrasing, but other times you cut entire paragraphs that you’ve slaved over. Why? Because they disrupt the flow of the narrative, or because they make a point that’s already been made, better, somewhere else. Maybe because you’re chasing a rabbit that doesn’t need to be chased.
In the past, I’ve been hesitant to cut whole swatches of words this way, just because I worked hard on those paragraphs or illustrations. I like them. Sometimes I liked the way the words came together. Other times I liked the points that were made — even if those points ended up being repetitive.
I’m currently in the editing and revising process for O Me of Little Faith, the manuscript for a book coming out next year from Zondervan. It’s about spiritual doubt. These are editor-requested edits — good ones that will make the manuscript stronger — but they have required some slashing and burning of my original stuff. As I’ve mentioned in the past, writers and editors refer to this process as “killing your babies.” It can be hard.
Not sure what this says about me, but I have trouble completely deleting my babies. I’ll take them out of the manuscript, but my big secret is that I keep them. I like to keep a few of the precious babies I have killed in a document called, simply, Removed.doc. So they’re not lost entirely.
Many of you have expressed interest in what I lovingly call “my doubt book.” It occurred to me that it might be interesting to post here some of the paragraphs I’ve deleted in the process of editing this manuscript. These are complete sections I have removed for the reasons above. They won’t appear in the finished product — at least in this form — but they give you an idea of the stuff I’m trying to cover in the book.
So. Here are a few babies I’ve killed. They’re out of context and may not make as much sense once removed from the passages that have led up to them, but anyway, here you go…
I’m tempted here to apply that “meaning beyond” argument to other things in addition to love, like the majesty of the Rocky Mountains or the stark glory of a Texas Panhandle sunrise. But I’m also aware that, had I been raised in Connecticut by atheist parents, the majesty and glory of nature would likely not weigh in favor of God. I’m hesitant to jump to the conclusion, like many religious people do, that the nonreligious have no platform to appreciate beauty or morality. That’s simply not true.
So is my choice to believe just a lot of wish fulfillment? I’m willing to consider that, but only to a degree, because using that angle as an argument against God doesn’t mean much. It could easily be applied the opposite direction. As a sinful person, I might wish there were no God, because that simplifies things. If there’s no God, then why feel guilty about moral failure? If there’s no God, then why not just do what makes me happy? If there’s no benevolent, powerful Creator, then suddenly the existence of evil is no longer something that needs to be explained. The absence of God can be wish fulfillment, too. But it proves nothing.
People claim to experience the kind of God who makes “divine appointments” and repairs computer glitches and “shows up” during big key changes in worship songs. But do we really think the presence of God is something we can so easily identify with our objective human senses? If it were, I wonder if an overwhelmingly present and active God would be too much for my fragile faith, like a highly concentrated fertilizer that damages a plant unless it is first diluted with water.
I don’t want to be like that bird. As a finite creature struggling to believe in an infinite God, I crash against the limits of my understanding. I doubt. It isn’t comfortable. Sometimes I fail. But the existence of the glass barrier doesn’t prove there’s nothing on the other side. The problem isn’t the existence or non-existence of the people inside the building. The problem is the bird.
Obviously this stuff is of interest to me — the “lost artifacts” of a manuscript — but you may think otherwise. If you like it, of course, there’s a lot more where this came from. I’d be happy to post it from time to time as I work through these edits.
If not, though, this post can be a one-time only thing. Maybe it’s too self-indulgent, or maybe you’re thinking it’s stuff that needed to be thrown away, so why read it? I totally understand.
Either way, let me know. Feedback is good.