Is it selfish to go to church because it inspires you to write? That’s not the only reason I go to church, but I confess I often find myself walking down the aisle on Sunday morning (late as usual) and thinking, “Man, I need this.” And it never fails. Something in the music or the pastor’s sermon starts my brain whirring with ideas on character, plot, or theme. Then I have to struggle not to zone out, thinking about my Work In Progress, for the rest of service.
Last Sunday was no different, but who would have suspected I’d find a correlation to my WIP in Luke 2, the Christmas story? And who would have suspected that we’d be studying Luke 2, the Christmas story, in October?
Despite my church’s apparent calendar confusion, the following passage was very timely for me:
At that time there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon. He was righteous and devout and was eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come and rescue Israel. The Holy Spirit was upon him and had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. That day the Spirit led him to the Temple. So when Mary and Joseph came to present the baby Jesus to the Lord as the law required, Simeon was there. He took the child in his arms and praised God, saying,
“Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace,
as you have promised.
I have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared for all people.
He is a light to reveal God to the nations,
and he is the glory of your people Israel!”
Cool, huh? God would not allow Simeon to die until he saw salvation, the Messiah. I wonder how old Simeon was. Did he wake up every morning and wonder if that day was the day he would see Christ…and die? Did he get tired of waiting? Did he ever feel like going to look for redemption instead of waiting for the promise to come to him?
We get the sense from the passage in Luke that Simeon was a good guy, and the promise of living to see the Messiah was a gift, even if somedays he woke up cursing his arthritic knees.
But what if you resolutely refused to see the Messiah, as many do, and God decided to keep you alive until your stubbornness ran out? Talk about extreme octogenarians!
That--minus the gray hair and degenerating joints--is the concept of my book, The Immortal Heathcliff. Although at the end of Emily Brontë's classic tale, Wuthering Heights, Heathcliff recognizes that his elaborate revenge has left him hollow, he still goes to the grave unrepentant. In my novel, he climbs out of the grave still unrepentant and wanting nothing more than to die for good like normal folks. Instead he’s stuck in an immortal state, searching for deliverance, atonement, and release from his unnatural life.
But what he views as a curse is actually a gift. He will not die until he sees redemption. He sets about looking for it, trying to earn it, instead of waiting for it to come to him. After two hundred years of failing to obtain his freedom, grace breaks down the barriers he's constructed. Now all that remains, is for him to finally open his eyes and see his salvation.
The idea of being stuck alive fascinates me, and I hope it will fascinate readers as well.
Question: What would you do with immortality on earth? Would you accumulate wealth? Visit every corner of the globe?
Me? I'd read. Everything.