In a newly formed ACFW online group I’ve joined, we’ve been talking lately about how we want to write stories “with a purpose,” with the aim to not just entertain but help transform readers lives. Stories can affect us deeply–sometimes, at least for me, even more than a sermon or nonfiction inspirational writing, though the Lord often reinforces the lesson for me through those as well. But stories seem to reach past my defenses and into the tender places of my heart especially well.
The Yada Yada Prayer Group did this for me, though I’m only beginning to unpack it all. But one lesson for me was the same one the main character, Jodi, learned—which I suppose is the mark of a well-developed character arc, that your character is so real that your reader learns and experiences just what the main character does. Only I didn’t realize at first that I needed to learn it.
I could relate to Jodi in a lot of ways. Like her, I’ve been blessed with a Christian family. Like her, I’m a rather quiet white woman with a heart for racial reconciliation but not much know-how in pursuing it. Like her, I’ve grown up as a “good girl”—at least, that’s how a lot of people seem to think of me, and how, if I’m honest, I’ve often thought of myself. Cloaked in required Christian humility, I might not say it, or even consciously think it, but it’s there.
Lately I’ve realized, when I find myself sinning or messing up or even just making a stupid mistake that has repercussions for myself or others, that I get very upset. “How could I do this? How could I be so stupid?” I get so mad at myself I want to scream or slam doors, though I usually don’t—I’m a “good girl,” after all. But in recent days I’ve been confronted by the question: Is the extent of my angst really repentance? Or is it pride?
Jodi faces this question at the end of the book—when her own broken humanness hits her square on in a way far more gut-wrenching than I hope to ever experience. She crawls into herself and can’t understand why her friends still love her, when she’s done such a terrible thing. Then one day, her friend Florida comes over and lays into her with the truth—that she, “good girl” Jodi, is every bit as much a messed up sinner saved by grace as any former drug addict or ex-con. And slowly, Jodi starts to get it.
I hope I’m beginning to get it too. I thought about it during the sermon on Sunday, as our pastor preached from Phillipians on how, as the “divine alchemist,” God turns the lead of our circumstances and our own broken lives into gold. I thought about it during communion, as I went forward to receive grace in the tangible form of bread and grape juice.
I am a sinner. I am not perfect. I am weak, and broken, and flawed. I am going to mess up. There is something oddly freeing in realizing that, in knowing that the burden of perfection is not mine to bear, but rather has been borne already, by Jesus. But He will show His perfection, His strength, through me, for as we were reminded in Jesus Calling this morning, His power is made perfect in weakness.
Help me remember that, O Lord. And thank You, thank You, for your grace. Help me to extend it to others, mindful of how much I need it myself.