From a young age I loved the satisfaction found in the resolution of a well-told story. Mostly my encounters with stories came from books and real-life anecdotes shared around the family dinner table. We didn’t have television in our house until 1984. A neighbor wintered in Hawaii and recorded about a zillion shows on VHS tapes and shared them with us when he returned to Alaska every summer. I suppose I cut my proverbial storytelling teeth on re-runs of The Love Boat, Gunsmoke, Flipper and a wide variety of 80’s movies. The warm fuzzy feelings that welled up inside when the hero won the girl’s heart, Flipper saved the day, or Marshal Dillon rounded up the villain were almost addictive.
The craving for a happily-ever-after started young in this fiction writer’s life.
As a middle-schooler or perhaps during my early teenage years, my tastes in entertainment changed. We had cable television by then. More channels than we knew what to do with. While I devoured every Janette Oke novel that came my way, as well as the entire Sweet Valley High series, and a novel by Catherine Marshall called Christy (you may have heard of that one a time or two), the quest for hope and a happily-ever-after felt a bit elusive in real life. I started writing a lot of stories only to shove them under my bed, convinced they weren’t worthy of being seen by anyone other than me.
Despite my quirky yet very idyllic upbringing, I had a sneaking suspicion there was a whole lot that was hard about being a grown-up. Taxes, raising teenagers, conquering the elements (perhaps I’ve mentioned we lived in Alaska where the driveway filled back up with snow just as quickly as one cleared it), worrying about aging relatives who lived far away … these were just a few of the things I noticed my parents wrestled with. Like most teenagers, I both longed to get out in the world and do things ‘my way’, yet felt a tiny bit leery of how I might survive in a season of life with so many unknowns variables poised to take me down at any moment. Part of me—more than likely the stubborn, hard-headed side— wanted to soldier on with a glass-half-full, idealistic mentality and prove that I could be good at adulting. I was equipped with a great education, a strong worth ethic, and my faith in a sovereign god.
Doesn’t every story have a happy ending? How hard could this grown-up gig be, anyway?
Well. I’ve been ‘adulting’ for approximately twenty years now and those Internet memes are true: it’s hard. Even with good coffee and an abundance of great stories. In a postmodern, information-saturated culture, the message of hope and the perfect love of our Savior feels … stifled. Diminished. Trampled by pervasive fear.
Some days it feels like evil just might win, doesn’t it?
Cancer, terrorism, poverty, the hot mess of an election year—they are all conspiring to derail my quest. My heart is heavy and a whisper of doubt tells me these promises I’m clinging to are trite. This is too messed up. I’ve been duped. There can’t possibly be a happy ending in all of this.
It’s in moments like these that I find myself searching for a nugget of truth. While I’m tempted to become cynical and jaded, my quest for hope and an undying belief in the ultimate happily-ever-after is not thwarted. Perhaps it is the true motivation behind my writing. I want so very desperately for readers to not only experience those warm fuzzy feelings found at the end of a satisfying, clean read, but my hope is that perhaps readers will be reminded or maybe even see for the first time that there is more to this life than the here and now. For me the whole point of inspirational romance is to point our audience toward a relationship with Jesus.
Somewhere in my collection of stuff from the teenage era is a box of CD’s. While those discs are probably stuffed in a far corner of the attic, the message of one particular artist still replays in my mind. I listened to a lot of Steven Curtis Chapman back in the day. He included a powerful quote from the late Charles Colson in the opening seconds of the song “Heaven in the Real World”. For me, those pithy words rise above the doubt. I’ve included it in the picture above. It offers the best kind of hope—the kind offered by our triune God, who is in fact, still moving and working in the hearts of His people.
Your turn: where do you find hope and a respite when your heart is heavy? I’d love to hear your favorite verse, inspirational quote, favorite song, etc. Please chime in and share and share your thoughts in the comments.
Quote: Chuck Colson
Photo credit: Alyssa Smith via Unsplash