When I teach creative writing to beginners, I emphasize three things: the need for strong action verbs, the importance of simile and metaphor, and the power of irony. Some say the best writers are those who use irony to craft the illustration and application of their story.
There are a few authors of old who did this well. There are even less modern writers who do this well. One of my favorites is the famous short story, “The Necklace,” by French author Guy de Maupasant. The story of a poor maid who begged her wealthly employer to borrow her necklace so she could attend a ball in style. The employer consented, but the maid lost the necklace at the end of the night. The next morning she sold everything to replace it. Years later after much hard labor to pay for the necklace, the maid confessed what had happened to the wealthy woman. To which she quipped that the maid should have told her right away, because the necklace was a fake.
The ending–so unexpected and infuriating–it stops you in your tracks.
The reason I love irony so much is because it is sprinkled throughout the teachings of Jesus. In fact, His whole kingdom on earth is based on ironic thought and action.
To live, you must die.
To receive, you must give.
To gain everlasting life, you must embrace the death and blood of the cross.
To be great, you must serve.
To be first, you must be last.
Talk about counter culture! If you want to fill your life with meaningful content, try applying these kingdom opposites to your everyday encounters with friends, neighbors and family. You will find yourself boating upstream, but not without a paddle.
The last challenge I give my students is to dare to live an ironic life by embracing these counter-cultural ideas.
Irony is something important to God because He uses it a lot to get our attention. I am looking at the mountains here in Colorado and recalling the great gold-rush days. Hundreds were “hell bent” to get to the west and make their claim. They wanted a taste of the good life. It was a craze and left some crazy with and crazy without.
How ironic of God to create the mountains and then hide gold and silver within the core of dirt and rock. It is the glory of God to conceal something; and the glory of man to uncover it, as King Solomon told us. God gets charged when we make a discovery, something He put there to surprise and bless us.
Even vitamins are that way. God hid secret nutrients in food, and then someone discovered that food is not just about filling our bellies; but about keeping our bodies balanced in health.
The outcome of ironic action is that it equals what you want. Say, someone steals from you; and you want to knock their head off. But instead you forgive. In the end, the thief may be moved by your compassion and return your goods; or he may harden his heart and never make a return. Still, in the end you have forgiven; and you can go your way without burden. You are the winner, if you leave it to God to even the score.
In God’s irony, we must react in the opposite spirit to achievc the results we want. Hey, I dont always do it. But I want to.
Well, I am heading to the gym now and wishing I didn’t have to go. You know, somedays it is easier to get there than others. But today I am wishing I could just blink my eyes and lose 20 pounds and become trim and healthy, without sweat and discipline.
Now there’s an ironic thought.