mirrors made of ink
Books are the mirrors of the soul. –Virginia Woolf
In Christian writing, it seems required to inject a “deeper meaning.” Humans were designed to search for purpose in everything. Metaphors form a language that acts as a bridge between mind and heart, delivering fundamental truths about the universe.
Metaphors highlight true nature. Words or phrases that don’t literally describe something give an in-depth description that could’ve been missed with a physical description. They can also be symbolic representations of an object, situation, or abstract notion such as love, fear, anger, etc.
Humans are intended for relation; God created us with an ache to share our feelings with each other. However, there is a gap: there is no language to describe emotions. If you look at the words used to describe abstractions, they actually describe physical sensations. The following sentence shows a sense of betrayal and internal pain without telling it: “His words stabbed my heart.” Metaphors give us a tangible display of feeling rather than saying something like, “What he said hurt.”
Metaphors create a conversion. They make an intimate feeling into an objective picture that another person can then take and compare to his or her own experience and apply it personally. This teaches us how to be relational by understanding and sympathizing with others’ situations, even if we can’t relate to the specifics. We are humans, created of the same nature. By connecting with one another, we explore human character, and thus, God’s character.
Robert Frost’s poem “The Road Not Taken” exemplifies this perfectly. A fork in a traveler’s road is described, and the reader is brought into the decision-making process with the character. “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— / I took the one less traveled by, / and that has made all the difference.” This renowned poem has found its cherished place because it describes a journey that is paused by choice, a choice that may make the difference between happiness and heartache. And often, one is not distinguished from the other. We identify with this character. We see the allure of the two paths, the vagueness of the future, and we appreciate the gravity of the consequences with him.
However, metaphors are not merely effective in advancing human interaction; they are also pointed tools in developing perspective. In writing or conversing, the communication of a feeling leads to a more objective viewpoint of a circumstance. We must compare it to the fundamental details of the universe to convey our meaning. This takes us out of our tiny world of feelings and forces us to look beyond at the world as a whole. William Shakespeare is known to have created this metaphor: “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players; they have their exits and their entrances.” This line shows us better the shallowness of the routine that is life. It is not a close-up film of our lives but instead a larger platform where each has a part to play to create a bigger story.
Jesus used parables to accomplish perspective. His stories were intertwined with symbolic meaning so people would be receptive to his deeper implications. This allowed him to delve into their subconscious and instill truth deeper. The heart opens to stories, while the mind processes lectures.
Metaphors are vital for all writers because they speak of feelings in a way all can understand, they provide perspective, and they touch readers deeper than vague words.
Metaphors give feelings context. They give our thoughts pictures. We write in pictures. By using metaphors, we are practicing the language of people.
One of my favorite metaphors is the exchange between Jill Pole and Aslan in C. S. Lewis’ The Silver Chair. Jill is parched but can’t bring herself to drink by the great lion. She tries to make him promise not to eat her, but he refuses. Distraught, Jill has a mind to find another stream. The lion tells her there is no other. I love how this reflects the nature of humans, their thirstiness, and the awe-inspiring power of Christ. It’s act of submission, living, writing for more than me, but as I drink from his Word and fill myself with him, I ingest that same strength, and it flows into all I do in his name.
I am a metaphor for Christ. I write to understand creation. I write to connect with it. I write to discover him and discover myself.
Katie Oostman is enthralled by perspective and the process of refining it through story. She attempts to do so through her own creations of fiction, film, and visual art. She loves exploring new things and hopes to be employed for her imagination.