Monday, January 10, 2011

Make Them Better - A She Reads Guest Post by Marybeth Whalen

"I should be sorry if I only entertained them, I wish to make them better." George FriedrichHandel

The other day I received an email from a friend who wrote a nonfiction book that makes people act better, strengthens their walk, and causes them to be more holy. As I read her account of the salvations that were happening and lives that were being changed, I had a moment of despair. "All I do," I thought, "Is write stories. What difference am I really making?"

No less than a day later, I got an email from a teacher at my son's school. She was gushing-- if one can gush in an email. She shared the story of a student at the school who was openly anti-Christian. This student saw my novel on the teacher's desk and asked to see it because she knew it was by "Matt's mom" (my other name). The teacher quickly offered to let the student borrow the book and was happy to see her carrying it around everywhere she went for several days. A few days later, the teacher wrote, the student came to her saying she had read the book, absolutely loved it and had cried off and on while reading it. The teacher went on to explain that this was the same student who had tried to sabotage the See You at the Pole event just afew weeks earlier by arriving early and having her mom blare music with the car doors open while they were trying to pray around theflagpole. She said the student is very sensitive to anyone even mentioning church. She could not believe the girl had not only read a Christian book, but loved it.

Later it dawned on me that that same student wouldn't have picked up my friend's book even if Matt's mom had written it. Because of her hatred of all things Christian, she would have avoided it, maybe even asked the teacher to put it out of sight. But she picked up my novel because it was a love story and her teenage heart could tolerate that. She got drawn into the story, lost herself in it, never realizing that what really had her enthralled was a whole differentlove story. In the pages of this novel, this young lady was encountering the great lover of her soul.

I can't claim that the girl came to Christ as a result of reading my novel. But I Corinthians 3:6 did come to mind: "I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow." I had a part in this girl's process. Perhaps a bit of her barrier came down as she read about how God pursued Lindsey, my main character. Maybe she dared to dream that God would pursue herthat way.

We write novels to tell great stories. We write novels to entertain. But we also write novels to deal with faith and to allow our characters to experience things that challenge their faith, and take the reader along for the ride. As Handel said, it is not enough to just entertain them. We should also wish to make them better. When we do that, we can feel confident that our novels are much more than manuscripts. They are ministries. And we are honored to be a part of someone's process-- some we will hear about, and some we'll never know aboutuntil we get to heaven.

12 comments:

Nicole said...

Amen. What a terrific and important email to receive. Awesome.

Patti Hill said...

Thanks for the reminder of why we do what we do. I said a prayer for that girl. The Hound of Heaven is after her. I hope she gets caught.

This is the very kind of "review" every storyteller longs to receive. Well done, Marybeth.

Gia said...

My mom had a secretary that would ask to proofread my work. She wasn't a Christian, but she would come to my mom's office and cry...saying that there was just something about my words that reached deep into her heart. It made me smile. The more she would read, the more she would come to my mom with questions. They were fictional stories of love and redemption...and I pray that one day they reach a larger audience, so that hearts can be mended like Kathy's. :)

Ellen Staley said...

I can think of no better praise, but that one who'd been closed to God has softened so He can complete His perfect work in his or her life.

Beautiful testimony, Marybeth.

Heather said...

Wow! Stories like this really encourage me to continue writing Godly fiction. Thanks for sharing!

Susie M Finkbeiner said...

Oh...thank you so much for this post! So very timely for me! (I'm in the agent search process and dealing with all the "no thank you" letters...you all know what I'm talking about). You inspired me to remember why I write! And that I need to keep trudging through. God has a plan for all the books we write and the stories we tell.

Thank you for encouraging me today!

Marybeth said...

Susie, Heather, Ellen, Gia, Patti, Nicole, Thanks for letting me know you like the post! That means a lot! I love sharing the focus of why we do what we do. I have to be reminded often.

Megan Sayer said...

I loved this. One of my New Years decisions was to answer the question "what does it mean for me personally to be a Christian and a writer; specifically how will my faith be reflected in my work?" This post is about to be printed out and put at the beginning of that notebook.

What an awesome encouragement, thanks so much for sharing.

christa said...

Stories can reach people in ways that are truly surprising. My Jewish mother-in-law reads Jenny Jones' books!

Kathleen Popa said...

So wonderful, Marybeth! There are many non-fiction books I love, but stories do deep soul-work that facts can never do. Thank you for sharing this.

Kathleen Popa said...

So wonderful, Marybeth! There are many non-fiction books I love, but stories do deep soul-work that facts can never do. Thank you for sharing this.

Marybeth said...

Thanks Megan, Christa and Katy. Megan what an honor to know this post made it into your notebook!! Thanks for sharing that!