I’m always curious about the backgrounds to songs and stories, so I thought it might be interesting to some people to learn the background to “Lines” and thought I’d write up a quick explanation. Considering the “What?!” reactions that several people gave after reading “Lines” through to the end, maybe this will also calm some nerves as well.
“Lines” was inspired by two songs. First, while singing “All I Have is Christ” in church, a line from the song brought the spark of a story to my brain.*
“I had no hope that You would own
a rebel to Your will…”
This brought the idea to me of a King choosing someone – a rebel, a traitor, a murderer – not only for pardon, but for exaltation. To be his queen. The kernel of the story at this point also demanded – unlike your typical fantasy tale but very like reality – that this woman not be a gorgeous supermodel, but unattractive by the world’s standards. For her to be the stereotypical beauty would have placed some of the value, the attractiveness, in her and thereby watered down the absolute grace of the choice. What I wanted, what the song suggested to me about God’s love, was a love flowing freely and fully from the king to one who deserved the exact opposite.
Obviously, the story changed a bit from there.
The second inspiration came from a far different source. Sting – that model of theological strength – has a song titled “Love is Stronger than Justice.” Doesn’t that sound nice? Unfortunately, it’s not. Not really. Cosmically speaking, God did not bow his justice to His love. This would have violated his own character (and set a dangerous precedent, as well) by allowing evil to pass by unpunished. Contrary to popular belief, His love did not wink at sin or give an understanding nod or even a stern but toothless warning. The evil we have done was brought to full justice – just not upon our heads. Christ bore the full and just wrath of God, which allowed us to be pardoned. Therein lies the mercy and the justice at once.
As a side note, I hadn’t listened carefully enough to the rest of Sting’s song. When I looked up the lyrics, it turns out that they were even worse than I had assumed. It’s actually about a guy who kills his six half-brothers to get the only girl in town. You know, because “love” is more powerful than being just and good.
So there you have it. Those ideas bounced around in my brain for awhile and the amalgamation of them – combined with a world that I had already created for some other stories – turned into “Lines.” Thanks for reading it!
NOTE: If you’re interested, here’s a link to another story from the same world that I wrote years ago. It was published in a webzine called Abyss and Apex.
* Full disclosure: In a great example of how history and truth can occasionally draw apart from one another, I can’t remember for certain if this is the song that sparked the memory. I know it was a worship song and that it contained a powerful line about a “rebel” and the grace offered him. But I have a sinking feeling that it wasn’t “All I Have is Christ.” Is there another popular song that comes to mind fitting the description above?