I have recently found myself returning to some fairy tale clichés such as the Seventh Son of the Seventh Son, the white stag, and such. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if I found a hidden King, Prince, or Princess in my wanderings through my new world. This return to childhood has brought to mind some of the more cliché things in the Christian world. There are some passages of the Bible and some hymns that everyone uses. Not just Christians memorize these passages, but nominal Christians, and just everyday Americans. Sometimes this devalues them in our eyes. We hear them applied incorrectly, or taken out of context, or just used over and over and over until we become dulled to their beauty. The two that come to mind most often are the 23 Psalm and Amazing Grace. How often do we hear these two beautiful and wonderful things used by people who don’t understand them at all? And yet, does that mean we should stop using them just because they are overused?
Let me tell you about why I’m in love with these two clichés:
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
I love the imagery of this verse. I love the idea of walking through the valley. Not flying over the mountain tops, kissed by the sun. No, the image is of walking, which is slow, through a valley of shadows. This is a deep dark valley with high mountain walls on either side. Mountains so high the valley is always dark. And notice the name of the valley. It’s not the valley of the shadow of lack of comfort, or the valley of frustration, or the valley of the shadow of poverty, but the valley of the shadow of Death.
Death, dear beloved, is the darkest water we must pass through and very little in this world makes death light. We fear it and, as believers, we understand it is the ultimate price for our sin. But, we also know Christ paid that ultimate price. One of the speakers at the ARBCA-GA conference I recently attended, Pastor Michael Kelly, pointed out that death is proof that God keeps His promises. Have you ever considered that? Death was the promised curse for sin and we die. Death is proof that God keeps His promises.
So, I walk—not run, not fly—walk through—not over or around—but through. I walk through the valley of the Shadow of Death. We all must walk this valley at one time or another. I will fear no evil for you are with me. I won’t be afraid because Christ is with me. This is one of my favorite verses in the Bible. It is rich in truth, reminds us of God’s promise keeping and is a great encouragement because life is often dark and fearful. Don’t let over use and misuse steal the beauty of this verse from you.
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
Many people get tired of this song. It’s applied to the worst of sinners who have no sign of grace in their lives. It’s used sentimentally to garner particular emotions. But, if it’s one of the hymns you love, you can use these situations to feed on truth. You can enjoy its doctrine no matter how poorly the user might intend it.
Ponder the words. “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.”
Have more beautiful words ever been penned by man? The older I get the more obvious and multi-layered my sin becomes. I was unaware as a young child, saved at an early age, of just how indoctrinated, insidious, and putrid sin is. I was unaware of how sinful I could be. I had no idea. But, amazing grace that saved a wretch like me. I love this song for all its lack of luster. I love it despite the abuse it suffers at the hands of emotionalism.
My plan is to work both of these clichés into my new Fairy Tale. I have a character who is a good man fighting on the wrong side of the war. Meaning he’s on the side of evil. He loves to read and quote old and forgotten phrases. He will quote both these at some point before his death. Yes, I already know he’s going to die. They won’t be worked in just as quotes by this character I love so much, they will be themes throughout the story. One of the biggest influences for this particular character is a song that I treasure called the Soldier and the Oak by Elliot Park. The line that is driving me is:
But one day a rebel with a bullet in his chest
Hung his rifle on my limbs and laid to rest
And there beside me as the blood soaked to my roots
The soldier sang
A song of grace
I love the line: The soldier sang a song of grace. The beauty of this song is that the very familiar tune of Amazing Grace is worked into the main tune of the song. It is perfectly done. And my poor soldier will sing a song of grace at the end of his time.
Sometimes the clichés are clichés because they are so beautiful, and so rich, we have to keep going over them. And because I’m a fairy tale writer, I get to indulge my love of them a little more.