It’s one of those newfangled compound words.
Ha. Okay. Compound words have been around since Biblical times, so I guess they can’t be that newfangled. ^_^
It’s also an oxymoron. Bitter and sweet. Those two words don’t seem like they should go together, right? When I bite into something bitter, my taste buds shudder in revulsion. When I bite into something sweet, though, my taste buds do a happy dance. (I like salty, too, but that’s a post for another day.)
Real life is full of oxymorons, isn’t it?
In life, we learn that the same thing that brings us sadness can also make us happy. My son is starting his senior year of high school. While I’m excited for him and the future God has for him, I’m also sad that he’s going to be leaving the nest and that he won’t be a part of my daily life anymore once that happens. My daughter, as many of you know, passed away when she was in the third grade. I am forever grateful – and joyful – that she is safely in the presence of her Savior. That doesn’t stop me from missing her, though. She would be starting her freshman year in high school if she were still with us.
See? Bitter and sweet, all rolled into one. (I’m not bitter about either of these things, but you get the idea.)
Those same oxymorons follow us into our Christian walk. We all make our decisions based on what we know. When we are new believers, 95% of what we know is of the world, and 5% is of God. (I’m guestimating – go with it.) As we grow in our faith and in our relationship with Christ, the percentage of what we know shifts from the world to God. We don’t necessarily know less of the world – but we do (or ought to) know more of God. That change in our understanding alters the balance of our heart and soul – and our decisions. For example, when we are first saved and someone tells us that life with Christ is a life of blessing, we often interpret that in terms of tangible or monetary blessings – because that’s what we know/understand. As we grow in our faith, though, that’s no longer the case. The Christian life of blessing is a life where God blesses us with (among other things) peace, joy, and an ever-changing heart – but He does that in the midst of our trials, worldly battles, and heartaches. Those particular blessings are intricately woven together with our challenges.
Again – bitter and sweet all smushed together like a S’more.
How does this play out in Christian romance?
I can’t speak for every author out there, but I can tell you about my experience. As a writer, I strive for transparency. It starts with admitting that I am a flawed person. I make my share of mistakes, and I am about a kazillion trillion miles away from being perfect.
From there, I move on to thinking about the lessons I want my characters to learn. Is it courage? Or faith? Or learning how to trust people? Or maybe learning how to trust God?
Then I create situations that can move my characters along their journeys, and I allow them to take steps backward as they follow that path. After all, none of us flawed people gets it right the first time, and some of us even jog in place for a spell.
Ultimately, when my characters reach the goal I have set for them – some type of spiritual growth or enlightenment – they do so with a realistic view of themselves and life. They don’t have the Pollyanna attitude that all will be hunky-dory from that point forward. They know life can be hard. They know some days will be painful. And they know that God is bigger than all of it. Their troubles don’t go away. They’re just given a new perspective in light of the cross.
Sometimes in life – and in fiction – we have to swallow a bitter pill. When we know where our hope and strength comes from, though, we get to wash that pill down with a cup-runneth-over kind of sweet drink.
Blessings to you as you walk the line between bitter and sweet! May God daily grow you and change your heart and perception so that you see more of Him – more of the sweet – with every passing week.