Honoring the Lord in a Novel
About four years ago when I started work on The Awakened, I wanted to write something that brought glory to Jesus. About 100+ pages and three months into the project I realized I had something that quite possibly honored Christ (I certainly mentioned Him a lot) but sadly it was one butterfly wing thickness above totally boring.
I seemed to have lost sight of my other goal which was to write a knock-your-socks-off, blow-you-over, out-of-control-roller-coaster thriller. So I started over, changing everything except the fundamental plot device and the title. I didn’t get as far in this time when I realized that I had something that was action packed but spiritually empty.
I had to start over for the third time, but this time I had both ends of the spectrum in front of me. I knew what I had to do. Somehow I was called to delicately merge them together without destroying the portion of my heart that I had poured into each one. It was a daunting task. One that came with its own set of start-retreat-restart cycles, as well as times when I had to put it aside and pray.
When it was all done, I had a completed manuscript in hand. I read through it many times (someone had to edit it) Sometimes I would come to a paragraph or even an entire scene and I would pause to ask myself, “Who wrote that?” (Does anyone else experience this as they near the end of the writing process?) Regardless of who wrote it, I knew I was holding something unique (at least to my experience) in my hands. It had all the elements of an epic thriller that was clean. It also carried a strong spiritual message that wasn’t in the least bit preachy. To the contrary the spiritual content appeared to blend seamlessly into the action story.
Now here is the kicker. Though I knew what I had, I constantly wondered if readers would pick up on it. My fear was that the book would languish over the decades until some professor at some religious university will accidentally run across it in some dusty used book store. She will read it then assign her students to write a…say…ten page paper on how the author was able to pen a thriller containing a strong spiritual component without weakening the thriller with spiritual topics and/or muddying the spiritual message with all the action. (Sorry students. I have nothing to do with this paper. It’s all your professors fault take it up with her. Besides I’m long dead)
Well, I guess I no longer have to worry because my readers are getting it and they are talking about it in their reviews. If you haven’t already, go out to my Amazon page and/or The Awakened’s Goodreads page and look for the comments that say though they were drawn into the story by the action, the spiritual message had a strong impact on them. From the atheist who said he was captivated by the action so much that he didn’t care about the spiritual stuff (my guess is this was the first time he had any exposure to even a small part of the Gospel. Or the only time he has stood beside Lazarus at the cross and watched Jesus die for him. Even if he didn’t understand the message he now has a seed of the Gospel planted in his soul. God can use that). There were others as well, such as the new Christian who said the book drove her back to the Bible. And there was the seasoned believer who said the book made her want to walk closer with the Lord.
It seems that there are two broad paths to this story: “Read it for the action, stay for the glimpse of the Gospel” or “Be drawn to it by Jesus, stay until the end because of the suspense.”
And now, at long last, I’m free to breath…and sleep…I hope.
How about you? Have you read The Awakened? Would you consider recommending it to friends because they enjoy snapping clean thrillers? Or, would you recommend it to friends because you’re worried about their walk and you think The Awakened would plant a seed that will allow you to have deeper conversations with them in the future (this could include your family as well)?
Feel free to share your thoughts about this – I would be very interested in hearing them.