Her story tells of a young doctor and a young widow who learn the lesson in faith of taking risks. That – (if I could steal a line from the end of her book) – faith’s first steps are “often taken neck-deep in fear”. The interesting and compelling aspect of the hero character is that he is afraid of the dark. Not a childhood fear of monsters under his bed but a grown man’s desperation.
If you plan on reading the story I urge you to jump ahead to the next paragraph ... NOW! (Spoiler Alert!) His fear is natural and explainable and even excusable. He has every reason to be afraid of the dark. He was buried alive. However, even though God allowed that experience in his life and saved him from it does not mean God expects him to carry that fear around.
If God doesn’t want His children walking through this life grasping fear in fist-fulls around our heart, then why do we?
Practically speaking, I am not afraid of the dark. In fact I am so glad to be moving out of the parenting stage of having nightlights and bathroom lights on in the night. Well, almost out of that stage ;)
Instead I have my own fears that restrict my life from entertaining the vibrancy and joy that God desires for me. Do you? Are your fears holding you back? Or perhaps, like me, have your fears already rendered you motionless? Or dead?
Whoa! That’s heavy, you say. I came here to read about Cathie and Quinn and find out how they are going to tackle the surmounting losses stacking up against them. Well, sorry - heavy is where I am today. Heavy would aptly describe my mood for months now. Okay, maybe even years.
Don't worry, I wasn’t buried alive, folks. At least I’m not buried under the heavy, moist mounds of fresh dirt indicating a grave site. My fears are more imagined and misunderstood. See, once upon a time in my life, before I knew the Lord, someone took the faith and trust I offered them and turned it into fear. I am not alone. We are many. We gather in the masses; lining store aisles, crowding church lobbies, shivering in hockey arenas and standing lonely amidst throngs of strangers. People who are tainted, bruised and marred by the thoughtless hands of others. You are not alone.
Writing has given me a platform to delve into those hurts. It is very therapeutic. First you give a character a heart-distressing event in their life. Then with the hands of a loving creator, craft together a series of stumbling and faltering steps leading towards recovery. Good writers can bring you in so deep to the characters journey as to reflect utter reality. It is captivating and the true reason we read fiction.
What trips me up now, is how to relate it to my own hurts and fears.
This past week, when my own distress seemed to be at its highest, my mind kept returning to an unusual thought. Pandora’s Box. We all have varying degrees of understanding with that term, but I think most would agree, we loosely use it to refer to 'everything falling apart'. Deciding to do some research on it I was surprised at what I did not remember about her story. Let’s see what you remember...
Pandora opened a box that she was entrusted to keep closed. Once it was open, evil unleashed. All that is bad in content and purpose slithered out and entered the universe. Here is your part ... what stayed at the bottom of the box?
Wow! How could I have forgotten that key point? That tells me that underneath all that we label as bad, all that hurts and all that we wish we could keep locked up – beneath all of that is hope. It is steadfast and still. And it doesn’t leave us even when given the chance to do so.
I had no need to read the story farther. I found my nugget. I found the simplest of words and the hardest of emotions. Hope.
What do Hope and Pandora have to do a fear of the dark?
Lots. Let me attempt to connect the dots for you. My mind is racing and God is providing so much light at the moment, I hope not to get lost in it.
First, I had not realized how closely I could relate to my own character, Cathie Bellamy.
My greatest fear when it comes to my writing is a result of my own lack of faith. Or trust. God led me onto a path 471 days ago now. A journey that I would never have chosen for me. The Lord patiently and persistently tugged at me until I obliged Him. Finally, knee-deep in fear, I stepped on to the path God had shown me.
It would be foolhardy of me to say that I haven’t questioned joining the Lord here. However it would be an outright lie to say that I wish I hadn't done so.
If you have followed this blog from the beginning – or read back that far – you know that I started it all with a question. Am I the writer of these stories or the author? It seemed to me very obvious - I do not sit down at a computer and wonder what will happen next to character X. The stories have a life of their own in my head. I cannot stop them. (Trust me I have tried.) Therefore, I must simply be the messenger or the vehicle God has chosen.
So, until today I have called myself the writer. I believed God to be the Author. I was, but his humble pen. That was the safest place for me to be. I would tell people if the writing is poor that is me, but if the story is good, that is God. I still believe that – sort of.
Allow me to share with you, in her own words, a comment from Tamera Alexander’s book.
“Rand and Rachel” her main characters, “each took steps of faith into the life God was calling them to, though they couldn’t see what that life would look like. Because, like us, if we could see, then it wouldn’t be faith.”
God had a plan for the lives of those (fictional) people. He just needed them to see it through His eyes. Like most Christian fiction, God orchestrated certain events in their lives to place before them the possibility of a life together. They still had to choose it.
I am completely entrenched in the belief that God is the Author of all our lives. Although let me qualify this further. God authors it but allows us the opportunity – free will – to rewrite it. If God 'makes' us follow Him on the path, then we can hold Him responsible for any success or failure. By choosing our own way and making our own decisions, we can alter the originally planned story.
Now for the application, for the faithful readers still with me. (I will relate my journey to writing to the journey my main character Cathie is taking. Although I did not see this until God opened my eyes today.)
For you and me, and Quinn and Cathie, God lays out before us His plan but leaves us the choice to accept it. For Cathie, He used visions. When God wanted her to intervene in Quinn’s life he provided a vision of the future. She still had the choice to act on it or not. Some she did act on – when she understood what she saw. Yet, others she avoided. These were the ones she didn't understand. We cannot know for certain if she had responded to all of them, or none of them - or even different ones, would the outcome have been altered? What we do know is that the more she saw God at work, the easier it became to follow with the visions.
For me God used images of strait jackets and long couches. (See my post here if you are suddenly lost.) If God had not been so obvious in my life I may never have caught on that He wanted me to write. In the beginning, I needed God to orchestrate the stories from start to finish in order for me to see the bigger picture. One year later, He continues to inundate me with stories faster than I can blink, but I have learned how to be more involved in the process. In fact, now I am able to be more creatively and intrinsically connected in the story lines. Now writing is not an act of obedience as much as a chosen activity.
For the character of Cathie, if my theory is correct then as she buys into God’s plan more, then He should become less obvious and less perceptible. As God steps back then Cathie will need to compensate by trusting Him more to lead her by faith. Remember faith – unseen?
In my life’s example, God originally gave the stories in full bloom to lead me to an unknown place. Now, as I walk that path, He steps back – not physically, but observably – and I must walk in faith.
Somewhere along the line, I have chosen not to. Fear keeps me from walking in trust and faith that I am where He wants me – and not that He is where I want Him. I still needed the full weight of the choice to be His.
Now, as I stand neck-deep in fear (and stories) I must chose to move ahead in faith. Taking the little ways He leads me and allowing my actions to be my own along the path He chose.
Writing Cathie and Quinn’s story is a perfect example of this in action. It would be hard for me now to distinguish between the original story I received and the liberties I have taken in writing it. Hence the crux of my heavy dilemma. I reached a sentence in the story that I could not tell if it was God’s words or mine. I lost sleep over whether to post it. There was no doubt in my mind it was true to the character and the story, however posting it online for you to see was a new problem. Because if they were His words, I should be ashamed to censor them. However if the words were mine, perhaps I should just be ashamed.
So, am I writer or author? And will I ever come to the answer of this?
The words of encouragement blanketing my spirit today are this ... it may not matter. As long as I maintain an attitude of honouring Him with everything I do – writing, mothering, and even cleaning my bathroom – then I should act freely within who He created me to be.
For today, God has created me to be a writer/author. He wants me to write. I believe that whole-heartedly. Otherwise I do need a strait jacket and some strong medication. People continue to live in my head and they come and go as freely as a vacation resort. I am currently sitting on thirty-two finished (but unwritten) stories. (Any ghostwriters out there?) Therefore I will trust and have faith that God wants me typing into my laptop day in and day out.
I will believe that even though many days I feel buried alive under the weight of the task and the responsibility He has handed to me, that there is a Light and He is with me. No matter what.
I am an author.
And I am second.
Here is a little encouragement for you - if you are afraid of the dark too.