Dave Meigs

David Meigs is a novelist with a background in youth outreach, specializing in ministry to at-risk youth and their families. Though his writing is enjoyed by all ages, his novels provide a unique, life-changing quality, critical for the youth of today. David and his family lives in Seabeck, Washington.

God Can Draw a Straight Line with a Crooked Stick

In the early autumn of 1990, I was invited to take part in a week-long prayer meeting with nearly seventy pastors of churches from every part of our county. There were representatives from dozens of denominations and non-denominational churches alike, including a few parachurch organizations, such as Youth for Christ, of which I was a part. Pentecostals, half-a-dozen or more different kinds of Baptists, Methodists, and at least one Seventh Day Adventist pastor were in attendance.

I was more than a little skeptical at how so many pastors from such widely varied doctrinal viewpoints could ever get along. I was sure that there were going to be some knock-down, drag-out debates at the very least. And I was going to be sequestered for an entire week along with these men? A whole lot of finger shaking would surely ensue, and eventually the proverbial blood would begin to flow, in true gladiatorial fashion, as Christians threw fellow Christians to the lions.

As the time for the event crept closer and the weeks turned into days, my thoughts turned from the coming debates over doctrinal differences to something much more personal. How was I going to spend an entire week in prayer? After all, I had rarely ever even spent a whole hour in prayer, let alone in the company of strangers. A whole week in prayer? The thought terrified me. Soon I would be face-to-face with my true inadequacies as a Christian.

I pictured myself down on the floor, upon my knees. My hands folded in front of me, on the seat of my chair. At each of my elbows would be some stranger I had only just met. How long would it take for me to start daydreaming? I probably wouldn’t even make it through the first day. What if I fell asleep? After all, I am prone to snore. I could hear it now. “Aren’t you that guy from Youth for Christ who kept falling asleep at the Pastor’s Prayer Retreat?”

Fortunately for me, none of my fears came true. Instead of falling asleep during late-night prayer time, the experience ignited my heart. Nor were there any arguments over doctrinal differences. It was a true miracle. There was an outpouring of unity across the board. Pastors who at one time had been cross-town rivals were now the best of friends, promoting each other’s ministries.

The Pastor’s Prayer Retreat had been born of a deep burden on the heart of the late Dr. Joe Aldrich, formerly the president of Multnomah University. It was his dream to see pastors gather together, setting aside doctrinal differences to meet together in prayer. The only agenda was that there would be no agenda—only prayer. I don’t know how many of these special prayer retreats were organized over the years, but I know the effects within our community were profound and the ripples are still felt to this day. It was also one of the most pivotal events in my life.

A lesson to fiction writers.

I remember a discussion I had with a pastor friend and fellow novel enthusiast. At my recommendation he had just read an inspirational novel and had loved it—right up to a point early in the story where something happened that disagreed with his doctrinal point of view. I had to smile. Here was a man who frequently enjoyed all sorts of science fiction and fantasy novels written by numerous secular authors. It was nothing for him to dig into a page turner with alien shape-shifters from an alternate dimension that were invading our planet. But an inspirational novel written by a Christian author with one simple minor scene that fell cross-grained to his own doctrinal bent, and, BAM, he can’t even finish the book.

Fortunately, not all Christian readers are as sensitive as my pastor friend. But we can still learn a lesson from that long-ago gathering of local ministers. Whether our characters are Pentecostal, Baptist, or Seventh Day Adventist, we should portray a God who is above and not limited to that same denomination or doctrinal point of view. Let’s face it, we all like to believe that God likes our denomination best; and if we are not careful, we can slip unintended doctrine into the novels we write.

Besides being remembered for his lifetime of service to Multnomah University and giving birth to the Pastor’s Prayer Retreat ministry, Dr. Joe Aldrich is also remembered for a phrase he was fond of: “God can draw a straight line with a crooked stick.”

I have no idea if Dr. Joe Aldrich coined the phrase or if he quoted someone else, but the simple yet profound truth within the statement also holds the key to nearly every life-transforming novel ever written. God uses broken lives cast in tragic circumstances to illustrate His wonderful power and love. In fact, it is only when we come to understand that God loves us, failures and all, that we have the power to really understand love at all.

I think that is what I love best about writing inspirational fiction. We get to create tales of God using crooked sticks to draw straight lines. It is not about how correct the doctrine of our characters are; it is about God working in their lives—failures, warts, and all. How cool is that? Besides, we all know that the denomination God loves best are we inspirational novelists. (Just kidding!)

That is it for this month. May God bless all you write for Him.