"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.