It’s interesting to see my life experiences, or the experiences of loved ones, reveal themselves in the lives of my characters. This may sound funny, but sometimes it surprises me, like a great revelation. Oh, that’s where that came from!
It gives me an opportunity to work through difficulties from my past that I haven’t quite come to an understanding about. At the time I may have accepted it, but on a deeper level, it has remained unexplored all these years.
This morning I had one of those revelations. A lot of my work is about loving the ones who’ve really, really sinned. And what does “loving” them really mean? This book dives deeper into that than Sani did. Freddie pretty much kept his nose clean throughout the whole book. The leading characters in The Prodigal Sons don’t do so well, hence the name.
I’m going to get honest here. My mother was stuck in a bad relationship, a bad marriage, with a man who didn’t deserve her. She had a pure heart, she loved the Lord, and yet she had a lot of things simmering under the surface that led her into this relationship. I hate to call it codependent, because she never really enabled him, but she did tolerate things she should not have.
Once they were married, all I could do was pray that God would get her out of the relationship. Devoted to God but a little legalistic, she would never, never have left this man of her own volition. She was committed. Plus, she loved him. And in his own way, I think he loved her.
These issues are always complex, and sometimes I’m afraid that in the Church we oversimplify them. Especially where we’ve grown up in a legalistic situation, we take very literally the commandment that we should not separate from our spouse. Sometimes, we’re unwilling to even consider that a little distance for a time can be healthy. It doesn’t always have to be divorce.
She needed a lot more than a little distance, but God saw that in her (possibly misguided) desire to honor Him, she would never leave the unhealthy, potentially dangerous situation. In answer to my prayer, He did take the situation into His own hands. However, it was certainly not the way I would have chosen. Ideally, the man involved would have had some amazing, life altering revelation and completely turned his back on his old life, become a peaceful, selfless man devoted to loving and serving God and others. Isn’t that always the goal of our prayers?
But…. we live in a sinful, fallen world, and quite often, that’s not the way it goes, because God in His love for mankind has given us freewill. I pray that in the subsequent 16 years since her death, my mom’s ex-husband has had a huge change of heart. But life is messy. It doesn’t always turn out the way we want it to, even where a loving God is involved.
However, beauty has come out of my prayers being answered in a way that, at the time, I considered the worst possible answer. Of course I wish she was still here with us. But in the years since then, I have been careful to take note of the things that may never have happened if I had not had to suffer through losing her when I was 26.
From time to time people express to me that they didn’t like the death of a particular character in Sani. May I say to all of you, I didn’t like it either. Honestly. It was the last thing I wanted to do. I felt blindsided when I realized that said character had to die. Writing that passage may have given me the opportunity to finally shed the tears I was never able to shed when my best friend called me at 9:30 AM on a Thursday morning in 2006 and said she’d heard about my mother’s passing on the news. Twenty-six and on my own by time, I was blindsided then, too.
That’s not to say I never shed tears over my mother in the following months and years. But at that moment… nothing came. Just shock. Then, Ok, what do I have to do? There was also a confidence from God that she was safely in His presence, and that helped me get through the difficulties of sorting everything out in the immediate days following. For years, however, I was never able to cry at the moments I should have, including the funerals of all of my grandparents. Yet I cried uncontrollably in plenty of moments I should not have. But I digress.
When this character was killed off, I knew his story wasn’t over, and that was the springboard for an idea to go back and approach the rest of the series from behind, rather than continuing immediately with a sequel. (For those who enjoyed Sani, don’t worry! I have one of those planned, too!)
It’s also given me an opportunity to explore things from a historical perspective. One can’t begin to understand the Second World War and the Third Reich in a vacuum either. I could have gone back much further than 1915, though that is the year in which I chose to begin the prologue for TPS. There’s hundreds of years of history there. You can read a little about that in another post.
My characters do not always end up taking the arc I want them to, or the arc I expect them to. Some of the ones that start strong have an inevitable plunge ahead of them… some plunging far deeper than others. Occasionally, however, the ones that I think are going to be the worst end up surprising me and becoming rays of light in a dark chapter of history. God’s faithfulness and mercy are entwined through it all. I’m glad I have a series to work through, and that I don’t have to wrap their stories up in 100,000 words, because life is rarely like that. It reminds me that there is hope.
I’m very excited to release this next book on November 1st. When you click, you will see that there is not yet a cover — my amazing cover designer Elle Kay is hard at work and I’m thrilled with her recent mock-up. We’re not quite ready for a reveal yet, but I can give you a hint. My boys are standing with their faces, not their backs toward you, breaking from genre tradition. I was so excited when I saw how closely they portray the men I imagine when I conjure up images of The Schmidt Boys.
The preorder link is only for an ebook. If you are waiting for the paperback, be sure you subscribe to my newsletter (not this blog), and follow me on Facebook and Instagram, so that you’ll be the first to know when it is available!
In the coming weeks, I plan to add posts devoted to our time in Germany as well as follow up on The German Perspective, Part II. And yes, I promise I’ll include pics!