March 30, 2014

Provocative - by Susan Barclay

This month's topic - writing about controversial things - brought to mind a post I shared on my personal blog back in July 2012. I share it in its entirety as follows, with a reflection afterward:
"If you’re going to be a great writer, you’re going to have to shake things up. Maybe even break a few rules…
"Write something that gets under our skin, that tests our nerves. Provoke us. Not for the sake of being contentious or intentionally provocative, but for the sake of being honest.
  "Because we live in a world of lies. Of false flattery and exaggeration. And we need you, the artist, to tell the truth. To help us get out of our comfort zones. After all, that’s the only place we grow. 
 "Because this sets others free. To do the same. To live freely and honestly. So get in our faces; tell us the truth. And watch the ripple effect." ~Jeff Goins 
Okay. I had to think about Jeff’s challenge for Day Twelve for a bit. Then I decided that the most absolute truth I could share with you is this:
  •     There is a God. And surprise – He’s not you… or me.
  •     There is only one God. As unpopular a view as that is today, it’s true. There are not many paths to God. All faiths do not lead to God.
  •     The true God is the triune God – Father, Son, Holy Spirit.
  •     God loves you. He loves everyone, even people you don’t like.
  •     He is loving, merciful, just, forgiving, and gracious.
  •     Jesus died to pay for the sins of humankind.
  •     You can accept Jesus’ offer of forgiveness; it’s free of charge to you because He paid for it.
  •     There is a Heaven and a Hell.
  •     Where you go when you die depends on what you do with the truth.
 I know that sounds pretty blunt, but that’s what Jeff demanded from us in today’s challenge, I think. Not that I always give people what they demand, LOL, and in this case, it’s not just the truth, but the gospel truth. And that should always be said in love. Sadly, it isn’t always said that way, but it should be.

I love my readers, and want them to experience the same freedom I enjoy as a follower of the truth. If the truth sets you free, you shall be free indeed. (See John 8:32-36)

Provocative enough for you? If you would like to know more, please check out

It's hard to believe I was already five years into blogging when I wrote the above. Even so, the post only got 11 views and exactly ZERO comments. Readers were either afraid of encouraging me by agreeing out loud, or so offended that they left and never came back. I suppose another option is that they were completely indifferent, and that might be worse.

Did I regret saying out loud what was in my heart and what was true? No, for perhaps a seed was planted; perhaps someone went on to investigate the claims. Would I be so bold as to "provoke...for the sake of being honest" again? Not sure. I want to be honest and I want to make people think, but I'm not sure I want to provoke - at least not in the sense of "to anger, enrage, exasperate or vex." I'm sure Jeff didn't mean provoke in that way, though - more likely he wanted to encourage us to "stir up, arouse, or call forth" a thoughtful response from our readers.

I think the best approach is to write with authenticity and to share, in a loving manner, what you believe. If God is laying a message on your heart, you can trust the Holy Spirit to look after the rest. Other writers in this series have pointed out the offense of the Gospel - and that's true - but I don't feel that I personally am called to create controversy. Jesus was an effective "agitator" because He could defend and explain Himself perfectly, and from a place of perfect Love. As for me, I'm called to pour out His love. I want to do that in the way Rich Mullins did - as an arrow pointing to heaven. In other words, by how I live my life - the actions I perform, the words I speak, etc.

Perhaps that's provocative enough...

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  1. Susan,
    I agree with you - I don't look for controversy but am willing to stand up for what I believe even though it may seem controversial to some.

    I love your statement: I think the best approach is to write with authenticity and to share, in a loving manner, what you believe.


  2. Well said, Susan. Writing instructors can guide us and provoke us into action, but it is God Who, ultimately, stirs our hearts and souls. We do need to listen to how He directs and then act upon it. I just keep hoping He won't give me the controversial topics - but, like Jan said, I would defend if I had to. But then again, God doesn't need defending, does He?

  3. Thanks for sharing, Susan. My take is similar to yours. I need to be obedient to whatever God prompts me to do/write. Sometimes that will mean saying things people don't want to hear. As long as I am faithful, I can trust God to take care of everything else.

  4. I can relate to your 11 readers of the post that shared the truth of the gospel. That's the fate of my posts that are blatant for Christ.

    11? Hmm... 12 disciples minus one? Could be your 11 started a firestorm you never even saw! Praying that the Lord will continue to guide you and all writers who share his word in his time, in his confidence, and with his leading.


  5. Agree with your post and all the comments too. I think I enjoyed this month more than most!

  6. Yes, may our words always "stir up, arouse or call forth." I am thankful that, when we are faithful to write or speak for Him, it is the Holy Spirit that moves in the hearts of men, knowing exactly what will speak and move. Beautiful.

  7. I'm with you, Susan, to listen to what God would have us say and to be obedient, whether or not it stirs up a hornets nest. It's not easy, though. I'm a bit of a scaredy-cat - especially of those hornets!
    Pam Mytroen


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