Weary of Darkness, Adjusting to Light
Why can’t I write a fluff piece? I wined, as I walked in the darkness from the conference center to my room. The characters I had created for my book seemed to be taking on a life of their own. Their dark pasts, complex and multi-layered, seemed to be affecting the present. Day two of the writer’s conference, and God was revealing more about my own spiritual story than really I wanted to see.
After six years of writing, mostly about finding hope in the darkness that is depression and suicide, I was excited to experience the first sparks of a fictional story in my head. Bringing my story for critique to the writer's conference, I found it to be well-received. My characters are rough. I knew that, but when the facilitator told me to be “brutal” to my characters, it suddenly opened my eyes to the hardness of their circumstances. They are truly in crisis, and it is my responsibility to show their suffering to the reader.
At the moment when the facilitator declared the direction for my story, I grew quiet, my sinful nature pulling me into a tunnel of self-pity. Rebellion had surfaced once again. I did not want to write THIS story! It’s not fair that I have to delve into the arena of neglect and abuse. It’s not fair that I have to cry over my characters. God, give this story to someone else to write. But God made it clear, this is my story to write. I am the one who is intimately familiar with the fallout of abuse. And, I have experienced the drastic act of God's love to redeem me.
Redemption comes at a high cost. Scripture recounts that redemption cost Jesus his life. For me, redemption means accepting that God is the one taking the lead, because I am not in charge of the outcome. So too, not in charge of the characters in my book, and not in real life. "And he said to all, 'If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me'" (Luke 9:23). God is the one writing the story, not me.
So I concede to God, and give up my desire to pen fairytale stories where everything magically ends in a neat and tidy happily ever after. Instead, I write the gritty story of a God who stripped his royalty to come to Earth, live the human life, and die a criminal's death on the cross. This God, in the one who is Jesus, chooses to love my characters (and me), and suffer with them in the dark places where they are tempted to despair. His story takes me beyond my limited thinking and offers salvation in places I would not go. So I choose to trade my will for God's will. This will is good, pleasing, and perfect, just very untamable (Romans 12:2). I have discovered over time that God's plan won't fit into my limited script and story ideas..
God is scripting the characters in my book to help others understand what the abused person goes through, and how much love it takes to redeem them. Victims often go through these hard times alone because they're so afraid of judgment. These characters help readers understand the patterns which begin to form from the moment the abuse occurs. The story shows unhealthy and healthy responses to trauma. It also reflects the struggle to develop a new normal, and to fight