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 against fear. God desires the message of my story to be one where people realize that victims of abuse need unconditional love.
I acknowledge that no story in this world is without hard, painful struggles. Sometimes, I feel like the Apostle Peter after Jesus hints at the suffering Peter will experience for following Him. Peter points to John and asks, “What about him?” (John 21:21). That's a convicting statement because I often wrestle with looking at the lives of others, and judging that their lives are easier than mine. Every time, God opens their story, and I discover they are no different than myself. We all have a cross to bear--a place of dying to self, and the experiences all vary.
God told my heart that night at the conference, "I have chosen you to share this book of redemption." To write such a book brings me face to face with my lack of trust. I often don't believe that God will bring good out of my hard, messy life. I want the path ahead of me to be easier. For me, dying to self is the place where I hand the pen over to God, and trust that he has a good story to write that takes the reader through the cycles of abuse, and not around it.
What better story do I have to write than the one of discovering hope in places that feel walled in by despair? Are you in a tunnel that feels impossible? Like me, do you grow weary of the daily fighting against the darkness? God's love is epic and overwhelming. He has established hope since the beginning of creation, and orchestrated a way to stay strong, whatever we experience. I see the light of Christ in this fictional story I am recording. It is also evident in the real life challenges I face every day. Yes, the current pages feel dark, but as an author, I know God redeems my characters in spectacular ways. So the answer is no to my own will. You see, I have realized I don’t get to write a fluff piece, but I do get to write a story filled with hope. One that shares the message that the tunnels we experience do not have the final say. There is always light. Are you writing a life story that has you in a tunnel of darkness? Press into that darkness. No matter how dark the tunnel is, God’s light shines brighter and the darkness does not win.
If you have been in the darkness for a long time, it can take a while to adjust to the light. After accepting Jesus as my Savior at the age of 20, I struggled to see well. I still battled dark thoughts and rebellious patterns. Notice those places where you find yourself squinting at God's goodness as you struggle with your feelings of inadequacy. It may not feel like it yet, but this is an amazing place to be.
God is saying you are ready to step forward and embrace His will for your life on a deeper level.
He will equip you for the purpose to which He has called you.
God will not leave you or forsake you in the dark places of your past.
Take heart. John states in the opening of his gospel that God's light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not, and cannot overcome the light.
Lord, you are redeeming my darkness. Those places of experience are ones I thought no one could change. Help me lean into Your light, and hold fast to the truth that You are writing a beautiful story for me, one with the ending already written. Amen.
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