Monday, November 13, 2006

RLH: From the Deep Places

Recently, I attended the Women of Faith Contagious Joy Conference in Portland, OR. It was a wonderful experience for me, the first time I've been able to attend one of these events. There's nothing quite like worshiping God with 15,000 other women of faith, and the speakers all had powerful things to say.

Why powerful? Because they spoke from places of personal experience and deep pain. These women haven't lived candy-coated lives. Patsy Clairmont suffered for years with agoraphobia. Marilyn Meberg lost a child and a husband and battled a life-threatening illness. Sheila Walsh one day discovered herself in a mental hospital, battling depression and contemplating suicide. Thelma Wells was locked in a dark closet much of her childhood. Sandi Patty experienced a very public fall from grace. Robin McGraw is an adult child of an alcoholic who gambled away the very bed she slept in. Carol Kent's world was shattered when her only child was accused and convicted of first degree murder.

Soon after my first CBA novel, The Forgiving Hour (a story that deals with adultery and forgiveness), was released in 1999, I paid a personal visit to my publisher. One of the sales representatives made a comment that he thought the story rang so true because I'd experienced that particular betrayal (twenty-five years earlier). I remember saying something to the affect of, "If I have to personally experience every story the way I did this one, it'll kill me."

I'm not dead yet, but I have found myself mining those deep places of personal experience in the books I've had released since The Forgiving Hour. How can a writer do otherwise? No matter the subject matter of the novel I'm writing, the lessons God has taught me and is teaching me find their way into the fabric of my stories. They can't help it, and neither can I.
Of course, some novels come from deeper, more painful places than others.

During the past year and a half, I experienced a difficult loss. One day last summer, I was talking on the phone with my pastor's wife and she said, "I hope you'll write a novel about this. There are so many other women who need to know they aren't alone.? Three months later, I was at a church potluck, and a woman said to me, "Well, there's a book in this for me to read."

Both times I laughed and said, "Yes. It'll probably become a book."

It won't become a novel because it has been easy to live through or will be easy to revisit those deep places of personal pain. It will become a novel because this is what God has called me to do. He wants me to write about life. Real life. Real faith. Those hardships and losses and hurts I've experienced are the same things that countless other women have experienced. Through the power of fiction, I can invite readers into my heart, into the truths I've learned, into the hope that Christ has given me.

I came away from Women of Faith encouraged, my heart lighter. I witnessed what beautiful things God can do with cracked and broken vessels. I want Him to turn everything in my life-- even those dark and painful things, even those cracked and broken places-- to good because I love Him and am called according to His purposes. Then I want Him to use those things to lift and encourage others.

"Two people can accomplish more than twice as much as one; they get a better return for their labor. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But people who are alone when they fall are in real trouble. And on a cold night, two under the same blanket can gain warmth from each other. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken." (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)

As a novelist, I want to be one strand in that triple-braided cord of a reader's life. I do that by mining the deep places of my heart.

Robin Lee Hatcher's 50th release is A Carol for Christmas, available now from Zondervan. For more information, visit her web site at and her blog at


At 12:03 AM, Blogger Paula said...

Beautiful. Thank you, Robin.

At 8:23 AM, Blogger Carol Umberger said...

The Forgiving Hour was the first CBA book I ever read and it remains one of my all-time favorite stories. Thank-you, Robin, for your willingness to visit dark and painful places and shed God's light on them for us.

At 11:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you so much, Robin. I really needed to hear this today. :)

At 9:03 PM, Blogger Rachelle said...

Robin, I came away from WOF feeling the exact same way. It was surprising, considering I'd never really wanted to attend one of those conferences. I know God is using WOF in a big way. I found it so encouraging to see how profoundly he speaks through broken people -- women just like us.

Thanks for sharing your experience.(And I almost went to the Portland one but switched to Minneapolis at the last minute--bummer, I would have seen you!)

At 5:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Robin, God blessed me the day I read one your boods,"Beyond the Shadows". I thought then, "she either knows someone close or she's lived it." Thank you for writing your wonderful stories and thank you, too, for introducing me to so many other wonderful christian fiction writers. I pray God will truly bless you as He has blessed me with the small bible studies and connections I receive when I read one of your books!


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