Thursday, February 16, 2006

PH: Wounded Literature: What is its Place in Faith-Based Fiction?

Have you ever wondered why some of us have a higher tolerance for the gut-wrenching truth in literature? I was recently involved in a discussion involving stories about martyrs and also wounded central characters. Some gentle readers in our market may avoid such stories in literature. I respect that we all have been informed by a very different past. I’d like to have known such a gentle perspective. I was a very sensitive and artistic child who grew up under a brutal mother and father. I was also the repeated victim of incest. The circumstances surrounding my tortured childhood were covered up and I was left to figure it all out after my parents’ death. (the perp was not my dad) While that all left me with a taste for the dark side, artistically speaking, it is only because that through Christ I’ve learned to not be afraid of the dark. I can stand in the middle of chaos fully at peace. Well, at least stand. I will admit that molestation themes such as are found in books like The Kite Runner, The Prince of Tides, and The Lovely Bones are very difficult to read. Not Mitford, those places. But for many women and some men, they are all truthful settings that help the deeply wounded come to terms with their pain and move on as they see the character moving on.

So I have learned to stop and listen to the artists who need to tell their stories because their story can only be told by them. And that is why we have a need for unique and truthful literature woven with the hope of God’s love. When my life is informed by the truth, even painful truth, I receive an expanded grace. Compassion becomes a fountain in me. The wounded person senses in that type of literature a benevolence for how they’ve also suffered, often in silence and alienation. I can read the martyr’s story as well and rejoice instead of recoiling. When I read it, their humility is poured out on me, an undeserving reader.

Martyrs have much to say about how their souls were enlarged as did almost all of the apostles. If it is difficult for you to look on man’s inhumanity to man, maybe it will help to think of how much more difficult it was to have to bear that pain and then continue the journey bearing such scars. And then realize this: When a martyr goes to his or her rest, ah, what precious reward awaits! No more humiliation, no more words to make you feel less than human, no more an alien, all pain vanished under the Father’s watchful eye. And then there’s His sense of justice. Think of the martyrs in Revelation crying up from his feet, “When will you avenge us?”

Imagine this sound as a holy cry for righting things that have been made wrong; also a fear that the evil persons who perpetuated this harm on the innocent feel they’ve gotten off scott-free. But then imagine a deep rumble of thunder coming from God’s nostrils. He is roused from that holy chair and rises to set right the wrongs. Heaven quakes, the angels fall prostrate, the earth’s foundations are shaken, the mountains split open, and the martyrs weep for joy that the Father of all those orphaned by the darkness will now witness their adoption papers signed and sealed by the Blood of the Lamb. Justice personified in the sight of all. I think I will feel twice His.

Would you care to share a title from your favorite piece of wounded literature? How do you think it helped you or another?

Coming summer of 2006, Earthly Vows.


At 6:47 AM, Blogger Deborah Raney said...

Patty, I had a fairytale happy childhood, and the rest of my 50 years have been almost frighteningly free of pain or sorrow. But I know that "in this world you will have trouble" (John 16:33) and when I read about fictional characters who go through the fire I feel that my spirit is strengthened for the sorrow that is sure to come. While reading Jerry Jenkins' THOUGH NONE GO WITH ME, Robin Lee Hatcher's RIBBON OF YEARS and Randy Alcorn's SAFELY HOME, I had to ask myself if I was spiritually strong enough that my faith would stand up under testing like those protagonists experienced. And after finishing those books, and others with tortured characters, I felt like I was stronger and better prepared to go through my own fire whenever it comes, as it surely will.

At 12:40 PM, Blogger Patricia Hickman said...

So true, Deb. Whether a reader has or hasn't known pain, when a story informs the reader through that writer's own up-close view of life, personal views are expanded to include those who have walked a different road. Our persective grows.

At 2:59 PM, Blogger Rachel Hauck said...

Wow, Patricia, such a great picture of our King, the Judge. We know He will call into judgement all the injustices of the earth - especially those of a child.

"Better to have a millstone tired aroudn their neck."

Tracey Bateman's Color Of The Soul has a main character who endures much abuse as a post Civil War slave. While the treatment of Cat angers me, it also makes me realize the endurance of the human soul.

Also, a wonderful book The Heavenly Man is a modern day story about a Christian Chinaman, Brother Yun, enduring imprisonment and tortue for his Lord.

I didn't want to read it. But I forced myself to open it and spot read. I cringed at a few of his torture descriptions (and he left out a lot) but seeing his zeal for the Lord, hearing him say while working hard labor, "I saw my sin," reading of the amazing miracle the Lord performed on His behalf gave me hope and courage.

We serve an amazing God. There is none like Him.

At 4:32 PM, Blogger Catherine West said...

Thank-you for this post Patty. I am so glad God brought me to this page today.
I have spent the last five years in search and reunion with my birthmother. I am only now able to begin to write about that experience. I pray that God will bless the words as I write and that pehaps one day I may be fortunate enough to actually have my story read by others, if it be His will.
I so appreciate Christian publishers who are not afraid to let the world see that Christians are not perfect people, but rather sinners saved by grace. It seems as though the publishing market is changing in that regard.
I am thankful for these authors who have been allowed to share their painful journeys with us, because in doing so, we are also given the opportunity to witness the amazing testimony of the grace and mercy of Jesus. Without Him, there would be no story to tell.
God is good.

At 1:05 PM, Blogger Margo Carmichael said...

Interesting. I dread and avoid sad books and movies, but once I watch one, I love it and watch it more than once. Like _Prince of Tides_. "Lowenstein, Lowenstein." (Met Pat Conroy at a booksigning. Such a kind man, told me to write his agent and say he said to. Got me the fastest rejection ever! One week! LOL) It's good to see how much the pain in stories can help those who have experienced it. I've also recommended _Read for Your Life_ which stresses the same thing--and the validity of FICTION!


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