Today’s post is from my new friend, Varina Denman.
Like my husband, she’s a Texan!
Thanks for coming on over to this Tennessee blog today and telling us about your novel.
Is There a Need for a Novel About Church Hurt?
by Varina Denman
Often, Christians experience hurt feelings because of other church members, but many believers would argue that a novel centered on the topic would be less than entertaining, and for some, downright painful. So why did I write Jaded, a novel telling the story of a young woman overcoming church hurt? Most likely it’s not for the reason you would expect.
Admittedly, I take the church for granted. I’ve been at worship three times a week since birth, and I’ll be there till they wheel my casket up the aisle. For me, the church is life. It’s breath. It’s nourishment.
But it’s also pain. We’re always harder on those we love, and in my lifetime, I’ve seen way too many bad/sad/mad things happen among Christians. I’ve seen believers ostracized for their sins, ridiculed for their weaknesses, and gossiped for everything under the sun. All in the name of Christ.
And I’ve been hurt.
There was the time church work was pushed on my husband and me, even though our marriage was struggling. There was the time a friend’s parenting skills were scrutinized because of the behavior of their teenage child. There was the time family members were ridiculed because of their convictions on social issues.
But it all started when I was much younger, at the age when I first became aware of my appearance. Like most adolescent girls, I felt insecure in my skin, and I worried about make-up and clothing. Boys began to figure into this concern, and I struggled to balance my need-to-be-noticed with the Christian values my parents had taught me.
Good girls wore this and not that. Bad girls wore that and not this. I thought I was getting it right, until one of the deacons looked at me from head to toe and made a disgusted face at my clothing or my make-up or my body … or me.
Yes, the church hurts. And I include myself in that accusation. I don’t always say or do—or even think—the right thing. In fact, twenty-five years later as I walked into worship, I caught myself scrunching my nose at two teenage girls in short dresses, and I realized
Christians don’t always act like Christ.
But there’s a reason for that. Duh. We’re not Him. We’re human and we’re a mess. As long as there are people in the church, there will be problems, but we’re trying. It’s true we’re harder on those we love, but the fact is, we DO love. We just love imperfectly.
The Lord’s church is all about forgiveness, and we give each other plenty of practice. We hurt each other, we forgive each other, we love each other. We strive to love like Christ, but not until we get to heaven, will we finally get it right. And to tell you the truth, I’m looking forward to that day. In the meantime, I suppose I’m a little jaded to the church. I feel lucky I haven’t been wounded worse, and I hurt for those who have.
But … no. The honest answer is: it was an accident.
Five years ago, I was a stay-at-home mom, reading novels to fill the void of a newly implemented no-television lifestyle, and I decided to try my hand at writing a book of my own. Inspirational romance was my favorite aisle at the bookstore, so I sat down to write a story about a girl and a guy.
Well, since it was inspirational, my characters ended up going to church, and suddenly there was church hurt causing problems between my sweetheart and her hero. I had heard writers talk about characters taking over the story, and mine certainly did, but deep down inside, I realized the reason why.
Even though I had never been dramatically or publicly wounded by Christians, the issue of church hurt simmered deep in my soul.
But I got nervous. Should I write something like that? Would readers be offended? Would they judge me? And the most practical question: would a reputable publisher touch it anyway?
I worried and fretted and sought advice from friends and family and industry professionals, and got mixed opinions. Almost everyone agreed that church hurt is real, though a few stragglers insisted the things I was writing would never happen in a group of believers. But the more I discussed it, the less I worried, because God seemed to grant me peace about it. And then something unexpected happened. When people heard what I was writing, they started telling me their own stories:
- A youth minister publicly humiliating a teenager
- A family ostracized when their unwed daughter got pregnant
- Countless stories of hurtful behavior toward divorced Christians
It broke my heart, and at that point, I realized I had been asking the wrong questions. It wasn’t a matter of offending readers, or having my feelings hurt, or getting the book published. It all boiled down to
Whether or not the book could help those who have been injured.
Since Jaded’s release, readers have been answering my questions for me. Yes, some find the story painful. Yes, some find it entertaining, regardless of the topic. Yes, many Christians have experienced church hurt. And most importantly, Yes, wounded Christians have been encouraged by the story.
So even though I didn’t set out to write a novel on the subject, I feel as though God pulled the story from my soul when I wasn’t looking. I think he wanted me out of my comfort zone, thinking about someone other than myself … because clearly there’s a need for a novel about church hurt, whether I realized it or not.
Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2:4
An avid reader and blogger, Varina Denman enjoys writing fiction about Christian women and the unique struggles they face. She seems to have a knack for describing small town life, and is currently working on the three-book Mended Heart Series. The first book in the series, Jaded, won the 2013 ACFW Genesis contest for romance.
Varina attended three Texas universities over a span of five years, majoring in four subjects and earning zero degrees. However, she can now boast sixteen years as a home educator, volunteering in the local cooperative where she has taught numerous subjects including creative writing and literature.
Even though Varina has spoken at ladies’ retreats and taught women’s Bible classes, she finds the greatest fulfillment facilitating prayer groups. She lives in Burleson, Texas, where she helps with Family Ministry in her home congregation. Varina is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and North Texas Christian Writers.
You can connect with her here:
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© Melanie Redd and Ministry of Hope, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Melanie Redd and Ministry of Hope with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.