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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Intention as a Theme

As I begin the upward climb to the big finale of my latest novel, Intended for Harm, I've been dwelling more and more on the themes of the book and how to bring them out in a powerful way. As with all my books, I am prompted to write this particular story because a key idea drives me--whether it be about jealousy, revenge, greed, grief, or betrayal. Intended for Harm, a modern-day story of Jacob and his family, is all about the wounds we receive in life (emotionally) and the lies we come to believe as a result.

Each of my nine main characters--Jake, his first and second wives, his six children--have suffered, much as we all do in life. I always aim for a psychological study of human nature--what are our core needs and what happens when those needs aren't met. With more than 400 pages written so far, I've come to care so much about these wounded, hurting people and have found my title (reflecting my main theme) becoming an interesting concept to ponder.

The title of the book comes from Genesis 50:20: "What you intended for harm, God intended for good, for the saving of life..." This is a little bit of tweaking on my part, but the gist is there. We often look at the hurtful experiences in our lives as harmful, and they are. They hurt. And sometimes the person doling out the hurt does intend our harm. There's no denying that is a reality in our world, in our fallen state.

But God is above our petty, sinful nature. He is perfect, omniscient, and leads us for our good. Most of us are familiar with the verse in Romans 8 that says all things work for the good of those who love God. We read in Hebrews 12 how he disciplines us for our good. Good things come from endurance; suffering builds character.

I've been thinking about intention. Human intention versus divine intention. How God never intends harm. He knows the plans he has for us, to give us a future and a hope, for good and not for harm. God intends good things for us, but sometimes, like the Bible says, we direct our own steps and come to harm. Which gets me thinking about my own actions and the intentions behind them. When I speak or act, what exactly are my intentions? Are they to honor and lift up God? Are they to encourage others and help them? Or are they self-serving, stemming from pride, a need for attention, or a desire to push ahead of another?

It was God's intention from the beginning of time to provide a way out of sin and death, and everything he did as time moved forward was meant to realize that intention, culminating at the cross. If we truly believe God intends good for us, shouldn't that shift the way we see trials and disappointments in our lives? If we know, in the long run, that God intends us to become more like his son, so that we can live with him forever in perfect love and gratitude, shouldn't we think a bit before complaining about our life?

I know I have a lot to learn to get to a place of acceptance. I still grumble, worry, experience envy and disappointment. But under it all, I know God is doing a work in me, however painful, and his intention is for my good, not my harm. If I can remember this each day, my path will feel smoother and my trust and appreciation will grow. That is my prayer today for us all.

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