I just received word that my publishing company is working on the cover art for Where She Was Going. We’re still not quite published, but it’s another step in that direction. Again, I’m hoping for sometime this fall–fingers crossed!
As I await publication, and while it’s summer break and I’ve got M down for a nap, I want to reflect on and explain my hopes for my readers. As much as I felt I slacked on my writing and took way too long to tell this story, there was a very real intentionality in my work. Yes, I hope that my book can be an enjoyable read, but I also wrote with a higher purpose in mind.
The story follows a teenager who gets forced into going to a Christian camp for community service hours. She’s pretty anti-Christianity. My goal is for the reader to be able to walk alongside Leigh and the other girls in her cabin. The reader gets to participate in Bible studies, listen to lessons, and ask questions alongside the characters. I hope that it will be as though the readers themselves were sent to camp to learn about Christianity. Through that, I have a couple goals.
First of all, I want teenagers to know that they can ask really hard questions about their faith. When I was in high school, not understanding this nearly drove me away from Christianity. The church I grew up in didn’t have any sort of youth program. Plus I was constantly busy on weekends with basketball or volleyball tournaments. I didn’t have anywhere I could go to hear that questioning our faith is an important part of Christianity. I mean c’mon, Jacob literally wrestles with God. All throughout the Bible, our characters and heroes are questioning God. Through that questioning, comes spiritual growth.
As a teen, I thought that asking a question meant I didn’t have faith. But if I’d actually asked someone those questions I had, I may have gotten some answers and started to grow. It was randomly one of my aunts who told me that I was in a great place to be asking all those questions. That casual conversation was so major for me. Ever since then, in my conversations with my campers, students at school, and students at church; I have made it a priority to emphasize that questions are good. In the book that I wrote, I sought to do the same. I hope that as teens or adults read this book, they’ll be reminded and encouraged that questions help make a faith strong. Questions are a great thing to have.
Another hope I have came from interactions with specific students. I have heard teens share reasons they left their faith. So often, it was for a reason that had nothing to do with Jesus and everything to do with Christians. Students would point to the hypocrisy so rampant in our churches. Or they would point to the hatred that some groups spew in the name of God. I hope that through the conversations that the girls in this story have with their counselor, the reader can come to see how yes, Christians are broken people. We misrepresent Jesus all the time. But, Jesus is a perfect and loving savior. I hope through the dialogue, the reader might be able to get a better picture of Jesus.
For example, towards the second half of the book, Leigh and her counselor Belle are having a one on one conversation. Leigh describes how,
“There used to be this dude that would stand in front of the Van Andel Arena before hockey games shouting about how everyone is going to Hell and how–”
“Ohhhhh, I see.” Belle stopped Leigh by holding up a hand. “Yes, I’ve heard those people too. Seems like a pretty bad way to talk to people about Jesus, huh? Yelling that they’re going to Hell–I mean who would stop to genuinely listen to that?” Belle paused and glanced out over the water.
“I think what frustrates me the most is that so many people know more about what Christians are against than about what we are for. When I read the Gospels, and I look at the words and actions of Jesus, I just can’t imagine that that would be what He wants. It shouldn’t be us against them, it should be us for them.”
It kind of feels prideful to say that the goal of my book is to turn people to Jesus. Ultimately that’s always the goal, but I don’t think I can really represent Jesus all that well on my own. So you better believe there were numerous prayers during this writing process that the Holy Spirit would be doing His thing working through me. I made a very human attempt with this, but I hope that the words I used might inspire someone to dig a little deeper on their own and pick up a Bible to read more about Jesus.
And there it is. That’s a description of my hopes for my readers. I’m still praying that God is with my little Book Baby and that He’ll be able to do immeasurably more with her than I could ever imagine. If she can help even just one teenager, then my time and effort will be totally worth it.