The goal was simple. In thirty days I was to write 50,000 words to wrap up Danny Morton's story. Restore his relationship with God and with his family. Build his faith and walk him through his grief. It was that simple. Finish The Redeemed in November of 2018. I was determined to do it because once Danny was healed from his grief, I'd be healed of my own. When he forgave God for all He took, I would find peace with God as well. Since my writing has mirrored my life for years, I knew this was how it worked, so I was sprinting to the finish line.
Turns out, it's not that easy.
As I write a novel I pray for God to write the story He wants me to tell on my heart. I know the characters will speak to me in their own time, but I need the truths to settle deep into my heart to do them justice. To me, that's what Christian inspirational fiction is. It moves readers into a deeper faith. It should reveal God and His Word in such a way that when the book is closed, their lives are changed. So, God took me on this two-and-a-half-year journey to show me He desires to redeem more than our souls. It has blown my mind and my faith.
The Redemption of Relationships
Just as a strong family or friendship is not built overnight, relationships aren't broken in a day. It takes years of silence to feel alone. It takes more than one screaming match to crush your soul. And it takes a conscious effort to turn from those you love. A decision that you will go it alone, that your burden shouldn't be shouldered by others. That no one should know your shame or pain. You might tell yourself you are strong enough, smart enough, resourceful enough, to go it alone.
That, my friend, is a lie from the pit of hell. Believing it will destroy relationships with those closest to you, keep you from true love, and bring a mound of hurt—emotional, spiritual, and possibly physical.
In the midst of writing this novel I have experienced the worst pain of my life physically, emotionally, and spiritually. It started with my grief and continues today as I deal with recovery from surgery to fix basal joint arthritis in the thumb of my dominant hand. It wasn't until I was honest with my husband about the depths of my grief and we started attending Grief Share that healing began in me and between us. My silent two-year struggle with grief was slowly crumbling our marriage, his faith, and his self-esteem. He had no idea my rage was from losing both my best friend and Dad. He thought it was against him. And the dozens of unanswered prayers he prayed for me and our future, well, to see the pain continue to grow worse was too much. Yes, my lack of engagement almost destroyed my marriage.
If you read The Deceived, I wonder if you picked up on Danny's silence. Throughout the entire book, Danny only has a dozen or so conversations with his parents. He talks to Lydia, Brett, and even himself. But he doesn't talk to his parents. And honestly, they don't seem to notice too much. They blame the drugs and alcohol, but that actually spiraled as a result. In fact, the one time he considers turning his life around is during an authentic talk with his sister Lydia. Real communication and connection is the key to authentic relationships.
The Redeemed shows the redemption of the family as the Mortons rally as one. Their conversations at times are uncomfortable but authentic. The silence is replaced with discussions, prayers, even laughter. I learned from the Mortons that when you share your pain with those closest to you, it brings you together.
The Redemption after Loss
Loss is a part of this world—loss of dreams, loss of a career, loss of people. Through the years I've learned that loss of any kind is difficult and it takes time to work through it. You don't get over it. With sweat and tears, you work your way through it. One day at a time. One emotion at a time. One breath at a time. Until you find yourself in that place of loss, you don't realize how difficult it is. The best planning can only potentially soften the blow. The pain, however, is unavoidable.
But, here's the thing—regardless of your loss, it is possible to rebuild in Christ. Rebuilding means letting go of your expectations. It means admitting you don't have the answers. It's also letting go of all you thought you controlled because, as a friend recently reminded me, having control is just an illusion.
For two years Danny and I walked the road of redemption. The theme that continued to shine through is that found in Romans 8:28. God works all things for the good of those who love Him. As we are working in our recovery, He is working out good. Not that the situation is good. Not that we feel good. But the end result will be good. I don't know that we will ever see the full goodness this side of heaven, but over time we see glimpses. As we seek Him, He slowly reveals this truth. This requires a heart open to understanding God's will. A mind willing to let go of what we think should have been. A soul that will rest in Him by admitting He is the true Lord who holds all our days in His hands.
As I spoke 70% of this novel (yes, I had to voice text because I couldn't type) it was my heart that generations to come would truly get this. Through time and trials we can understand it, but I desire my kids to get it now so when the waves of loss come, they walk on them toward their Savior like Peter rather than hide in the boat as I did. Who better to teach them than someone their age who has experienced as deep a loss as Danny.
The Redemption of Faith
I naively thought over the years my faith would simply continue to grow. Why wouldn't it work that way? With life experience comes wisdom. Surely that's true with faith.
Maybe it is, unless your life is off track. Unless you withdraw from the relationships that sharpen and encourage you. Unless you suffer loss and don't deal with it. Unless hard times come and keeping coming leaving you beyond exhausted. The strongest faith needs to be fed. Starving it when your soul turns dry can lead you to a very slippery slope.
But God is there.
Even those who are in the faith, who teach and pray and believe in God and His Word with all their hearts, can come to a point of losing their way. It doesn't make us bad or hypocrites. It makes us human.
I love the Morton family. I love that they are so messed up. I love that they don't have it all together because as Danny so eloquently said in his Letter to the Reader in The Beloved, "Perhaps, although things aren’t hunky-dory, this is your typical Christian story. After all, everyone has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Some of us just fall harder than others."
Thank you, Mary, for reminding me that concern for our family should always be a priority.
Thank you, Anna, for showing me my relationship with God is more important than simply memorizing and spitting out scripture.
Thank you, Mrs. Morton, for reminding me God doesn't give us a spirit of fear and anxiety but that of power and self-control.
Thank you, Mr. Morton, for showing me how easy it is to tear down my kids and spouse as well as how necessary it is to build them up.
Thank you, sweet Lydia, for reminding me that prayer works and love never fails.
Thank you, Danny Boy, for your willingness to share your struggles with me. Thank you for teaching me it's okay to be raw with God. Thank you for showing me there is life beyond the loss, that healing does come for the broken-hearted, and that our stories are worth telling. For His glory.
And thank you, my reader, for taking this journey with me. I pray your life is different because of it. I know mine is.