I remember the first Christian novel I ever read. It was Love Comes Softly by Jeanette Oke. I was in high school, and my spiritual life was a mess. Around this time I was also reading things like The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough and Pet Cemetery by Steven King—books that truly vexed my soul.
Reading Love Comes Softly was like finding a cool spring of fresh water in a blazing hot desert. I went on to read more of the series. Even as I partied with my friends and got caught up in high school drama, my soul longed for the peace, love, and hopeJeanette Oke’s novels offered.
Every reader has a spiritual life, and what we read either feeds our soul or robs it. Don’t believe the person who tells you, “It doesn’t bother me to read (fill in blank), I just skip over the bad parts.”
When it comes to reading fiction it’s important to remember that the whole of the book is more than the sum of it’s parts. Whether a novel has sex, violence, or language is one thing, but understanding the author’s worldview is another.
How does the author live his/her life?
Where does the author put his/her faith?
Does the author have a personal relationship with God?
What message is the author trying to get across to readers?
What’s on an author’s heart is what you’ll carry away on yours after the last page. It’s impossible to read a novel and not be impacted. If you journey through a few hundred pages with an author your mind, heart, and soul will be molded and shaped to the author’s worldview—for the good or for the bad.
I could create a long list of some of my favorite authors … and they might be some of your favorites, too. They’re my favorites because of their spiritual imprint on their books. My favorites include my fellow writers of this blog, and all of my favorites can be labeled “Christian authors.” Why? Because I trust them, and I trust that my soul will be tended as I read their words.
Yes, I do read classics and sometimes even popular novels like The Help, but I can tell the difference in how I feel after reading one of those books and when I finish a Christian novel. With those other books, my soul doesn’t feel as refreshed, and my own spiritual walk doesn’t feel encouraged. I usually put the book down feeling as if it was “missing” something. Or I rewrite the plot in my head with a spiritual theme. (Please tell me that you’ve done that, too!)
The wonderful thing about writing Christian fiction is that I also get a view of the other side. I am blessed to be friends with many wonderful writers whose books fill the shelves of Christian bookstores. Their walk with God inspires me just as much (even more!) as their books do.
Writers can only write deep, spiritual truths within the pages of a book if they’re walking it out in their own lives. There’s no faking it. Some of my dearest moments with my writer friends include times of singing worship songs, times of sharing Scripture, and times of prayer. They seek God with their whole hearts, and it’s evident when I read their novels.
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