Children’s Books, God’s Sovereignty and Man’s Free Will


The last couple of years I have taken to reading youth fiction. It’s a great balance for the heavy reading I do for school, and I love revisiting books that I read as a child. They take on a whole new meaning as an adult. A truly gifted writer is able to weave together multiple, complex themes, and some of those themes are only visible after time and maturity grow us up a bit.

The Chronicles of Narnia are a prime example. I read them two summers ago for the first time since I was in the 5th grade, and they came alive to me in a completely different way than they did when I was eleven. It is a treat to be able to go back and glean deep theological truth found on such simple terms. To describe God in the words of a child is a literary skill I envy.

While on vacation a few weeks ago, I found a copy of Madeline L’Engle’s book A Wrinkle in Time at a thrift store, and I purchased it. Her writing intrigued me as a child as well, and I looked forward to reading it through the lens of adulthood. I’m finishing it today, and I as I read the conversation below, it struck me as such as simple yet profound way of describing the concept of God’s sovereignty and humanity’s free will working simultaneously in harmony with one another. Being fiercely independent, the concept of God being in complete control and me still having any choice in the matters of my life never really meshed, but this makes sense to me.

“In your language, you have a form of poetry called the sonnet.”

“Yes, yes…”

“It is a very strict form of poetry, is it not?”

“Yes.”

“But within this strict form the poet has complete freedom to say whatever he wants, doesn’t he?”

“Yes… You mean your comparing our lives to a sonnet? A strict form, but freedom within it?”

“Yes. You’re given the form, but you have to write the sonnet for yourself. What you say is completely up to you.”

I tend to think that either I’m in control or someone else is. But God is pleased to work with us, within our lives. He has given us the structure in which He desires us to work. God gives us a range of choices for our lives; “This is the will of God for your life…” But within that strict structure, we are free to create a masterpiece or a trainwreck of the sonnet he has asked us each to write.

Seems to me, in my simple human mind, that this may be a good way of describing how God works in our lives. God gives us choices in life, any of which He would be pleased with. He has given us boundaries in which to live, guidelines to follow, and reason, knowledge and logic with which to make decisions.

And considering we are told in Ephesians that we are God’s handiwork, His masterpiece, I don’t have a problem at all with the idea of my life being a sonnet. Or a Haiku. Or any other type of art in which the artist is required to express his or her genius within certain boundaries. In fact, I believe expressing yourself within a set of externally given guidelines is more beautiful and more challenging than just “freestyling” whatever comes to mind.

So I guess the only question is: what is your sonnet going to be about?