Thursday, May 12, 2016

12 Truths I Learned from Fiction

A love of books was instilled in me from childhood. When we spent our summers visiting our grandparents in the tiny fishing village of Pelican, Alaska, Grandma Personeus read aloud to us at every opportunity. We couldn't wait to do the dishes because while we worked, she read aloud to us books she'd loved as a child.

The author reading aloud from her first Christian novel
When my heart was broken after my first crush, my mother handed me a Christian love story to distract me. From then on, Christian novels were my constant companions.

To provide us with good reading material on cold, dark, winter evenings and during the long, often rainy days of summer in Alaska, my father subscribed to a Christian book club. We could hardly wait for the two selections to arrive each month.

Fiction is often described as "not true." Good fiction, however, explores great truths. An old adage says there is nothing new under the sun. It's true. All novels are variations on a certain number of themes, which, incidentally, are all found in the Bible. Only the characters and details differ. While the stories are made up, good fiction mirrors life. It rings true.

Through fiction, I "experienced" the perils of a teenage pregnancy, the heartbreak of a broken marriage, the guilt of angry words that once spoken can never be recalled, the dangers of ignoring God's will for life. Novels helped me avoid making the same mistakes the characters made. The pages of the novels I read influenced my world view and my attitudes about life and love.

Here are 12 truths I learned from fiction:

1. Marry a person of like faith. In the books I read, every love story demonstrated the fact that two can walk together in life only if they are headed in the same direction and share similar values.

2.  God designed for marriage to precede sex. This order is not arbitrary; it is for our own good. Since God made us, He knows what will make us happiest. We can choose to follow God's way or not. The Bible illustrates the results of good and bad choices.

3. Seek to do God's will, not my own. The classic book, Not My Will, by Francena Arnold, brought this truth home to me in a memorable way. Frank Sinatra's song, "I'll Do It My Way," is not the theme song for my life. I want to "do it God's way."

4. Learn to say "I'm sorry" and "I forgive you." We all make mistakes and hurt each other, whether we intend to or not. Asking for and receiving forgiveness is the necessary ingredient for good relationships.

5. Never part from a loved one on an angry note. Life is fragile and unpredictable. We never know when our words may be the last ones they hear from our lips. I don't want mine to be angry, hurtful ones.

6. Always check the facts. When I read about a Biblical or historical figure, I always looked up the
facts to find where the author embellished the story. I learned a lot that way and came to love history and the study of the Bible.

7. To achieve happiness, I must become vulnerable. In reading fiction, especially romance novels, I observed the negative results of always trying to protect oneself from emotional hurts. In order to love and be loved, I must be willing to risk rejection and emotional pain.

8. Never allow bitterness to take root in my heart. Miss Havisham, the wealthy but eccentric spinster in Dickens' Great Expectations, is a prime example of the destructiveness of bitterness to herself and everyone she came in contact with. Bitterness destroys.

9. Expect the unexpected. Life is like a novel, though often even stranger. Anything can happen. It's not over until it's over. As long as there's life, there's hope.

10. Only God is completely good. We often don't understand His ways. This is where faith is required. Through reading both fiction and biographies, I have explored my own faith, and it has increased.

11. Evil can only be overcome through forgiveness. In the pages of fiction I've seen how unforgiveness, toward oneself as well as others, only hurts the one who refuses to forgive and blocks the heart from giving and receiving love.

12. Love is a choice. Love is more than a feeling (infatuation). It is an act of the will. Love is choosing to put the best interest of another ahead of my own. First Corinthians 13:4-8 (The Message Bible) describes it best:

Love never give up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn't want what it doesn't have.
Love doesn't strut,
Doesn't have a swelled head,
Doesn't force itself on others,
Isn't always "me first,"
Doesn't fly off the handle,
Doesn't keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn't revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always, 
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps on going to the end.

Reading fiction also created a desire in me to write inspirational fiction. As I create my characters, I ask myself, What do my characters need to learn? Will they choose to go their own way or God's way? What will the consequences be?

I want to give my readers a good story that inherently illustrates, without being preachy, the value of choosing God's way.

What have you learned through fiction?

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