Excerpt from Conflicted Man!
Sometimes when I’m writing, a scene I’ve planned unfolds itself in my mind, and it occupies my thoughts constantly, to the point where it actually disrupts my creative flow. In order to get those juices flowing again, I have to write the scene and purge it from my head, regardless of where it actually falls in the story. This happened as I was writing Solitary Man with Doyle’s escape from the cannibals’ nest, and it happened again with this scene from Conflicted Man.
This scene is Doyle’s conversion, and you can stop screaming, “Spoilers!” because this happens fairly early in the story. I have to give credit to N.D. Wilson’s Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl (fantastic book; check it out/buy it here) as I was reading it while I wrote this. It definitely influenced me as I painted this portrait of a proud man finally humbled. I think it might be some of the best writing I’ve ever done.
So here is an excerpt from Conflicted Man for your reading pleasure. I’m in the editing process right now, so the book is still on the distant horizon, but I hope this will serve as a tasty appetizer while you wait. Thanks for reading.
I step out onto the porch, clutching one of the fur coats tightly around me as the cold bites at my face and ears. Before I even realize it, my feet propel me forward, plodding heavily through the snow toward the forest. The moonlight filters down through the naked trees, casting rickety shadows across the ground. My feet keep going, one after the other, and Zeke’s words roll over and over in my mind, a perpetual wave of logic and conviction.
A debt I can’t pay? How is that even fair? Shouldn’t I be given the chance to pay that debt? Why would God set the bar where no one can reach it?
I don’t know how much time passes before the forest ends, bringing me out into a massive, snow-covered meadow, pristine except for a scattering of animal tracks. I continue walking, churning the snow around my knees as I push forward into the clearing. A cloudless night unfolds the heavens before me, and I look up into an explosion of stars, each one twinkling like a diamond on black velvet. A half moon hangs indifferently, casting the earth in shades of eerie blue.
I stop moving as I examine the vastness of the universe spreading in every direction, and I have the sudden realization that I’m only seeing it through a pinhole. There must be a million stars in my sight, but billions more I can’t see at all. I stare up at this sliver of the cosmos, this fraction of a percent, and I suddenly feel like the tiniest man alive. If the universe can dwarf me in this way, how much more so can God? If God is the creator, then surely He is greater than His creation. Surely He holds sway over it all, holding everything in His tremendous hands, balancing galaxies on the tip of a finger.
But why? Why would the greatest and most magnificent being in the universe care about me, a bag of meat and bones living on a tiny ball of mud spinning incessantly around a colossal ball of fire that could hope to be no more than candlelight to Him? Why would someone so massive and powerful even bother to love the insignificant ants who spoiled his majestic paradise? I know if I crafted something beautiful, something with gorgeous vistas, breathtaking sunsets, sweeping mountainsides, the last thing I would want is for some careless oaf to come through and ruin it all with his selfish blundering. I would be so angry with him. Truth be told, I’d probably kill him.
But God is not me. The realization washes over me that not only am I the selfish oaf blundering through creation, but also God hasn’t killed me for being that oaf. He has spared me, offering redemption instead of the condemnation I deserve. I feel the weight of my sin now, a visceral burden of debt that drives me to my knees. I can’t pay this debt, because, as Zeke said, I have no capital to offer. I can’t restore creation to its pristine condition, because its perfection came from God’s holiness, and my sin stains everything I do. My eyes have been opened, and now I understand all the things Jonathan tried to tell me, all the things Zeke just repeated. I understand why Jesus came to die.
I lean forward into the snow, pressing my face into the white, feeling my tears freeze on my face. My lips move ever so slightly and speak three words, uttered so quietly that the only one who can hear them is the One they are intended for.
“Forgive me, Lord.”