It showed up as a comment on a blog post, and it stopped me in my tracks.
“Whatever your plan is...I do hope you continue this series of books. May God direct your thoughts and plans with His plan. I loaned the books to a friend of mine to read, and her comment was after reading the first one (Dancing Priest), ‘If I wasn't already a Christian, this book would make me want to be one.’ That is a powerful testimony. Keep writing. There is power in the written word when it directed by God.”
A comment like that leaves you surprised, almost shocked, humble, and then almost fearful.
You ask yourself, “What is it I’m doing here?”
I’ve been known to answer that question about the novels I’ve written with “I’m just telling a story.” It’s a story that was on my mind and my heart for years – almost five years – before I typed the first word. By the time I began writing it down, it was almost uncontrollable. I couldn’t type fast enough.
I came to a stop at 250,000 words. I still hadn’t poured it all out.
The Dancing Priest series is now three published books. More may come. One is in process. But I read a comment like that and I tremble.
The books haven’t exactly been blockbuster bestsellers. I’d starve in about four days if I had to live off the royalties (and the royalties would cover only food for four days). But when you hear things like “the best description of lifestyle evangelism I’ve ever read” and “that scene, that scene of Sarah’s speech in the hospital, I cried” – and you hear them from men – you know something else may be going on.
At the end of 2013, I almost stopped writing. Two novels and a non-fiction book in three years, my mother increasingly ill and reaching the end of her life, absolute craziness at full-time job, keeping up a blog, writing two weekly columns – it all nearly did me in physically and emotionally. When Michael Kent-Hughes says in Dancing King that giving a sermon physically exhausts him, in many ways that’s me saying writing physically and emotionally exhausts me.
But after three novels, I know that I’m about more than “telling a story.” It’s that comment: “If I wasn’t already a Christian, this book would make me want to be one.” These may be “Christian novels” but they’re not really written for Christians (although Christians seem to like them). Michael and Sarah Kent-Hughes may be attractive and sometimes inspiring heroes, but it is their faith that’s the real hero of the story. It carries them through separation, through tragedy, through mistakes they make, through literal attacks on their lives, and through constant attempts to smear their reputations. If this series continues, their faith will carry them through a lot more. And they don’t emerge from all of this unscathed; Michael bears literal and figurative scars. But it is faith that inspires these characters to carry on.
It took a reader to help me understand that a good part of what I’m about is making faith attractive.
Photograph by Samantha Sophia via Unsplash. Used with permission.