I love it whenever I get to snag Sondra Kraak for a guest post or a chat here on the blog or in person. And since it’s my blog and therefore I’ve already read today’s post, I can tell you that you are in for a real treat!!
My ten-year old daughter accuses me of turning everything into a spiritual lesson. Whatever movie we’re watching, I have a comment about its theology. If we see a catch-phrase about following one’s heart, I have a discourse on how the heart is not trustworthy unless it’s following the Holy Spirit. It’s like Sunday School 24/7 with me.
I can’t help it, and I don’t think I’m supposed to help it. That verse about praying continually? About always being ready to give an answer for the reason for your hope? Or how about the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4ff) when God instructs Israel to place His commandments on their hearts—in other words, not just on their Sabbath day rituals. “Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home, when you walk along the road, when you get up, and when you lie down.” I’m hearing “all the time” in these words. And I’m thinking of Paul’s words, “In him we live and move and have our being.” And read our fiction.
Do you read your fiction in him?
When Jesus gets under your skin, you don’t look the same. You don’t think the same. You don’t watch movies the same. You don’t read fiction the same.
So how are you reading fiction? And I don’t mean by the fire with a cup of coffee or in the bathtub with your tea. Although—yes to both those ways.
At the risk of sounding cheesy, I want to encourage you to start reading fiction devotionally, which really means with intention and a desire to grow spiritually. I want to encourage you to see books as more than entertainment or an escape. We can grow in the Lord even while being entertained or escaping normal routine, but it takes a commitment on our part to ask the right questions as we read, to be contemplative and to invite his voice into all areas of our lives.
But what does it look like to read fiction in him? I approach a story with this question: What is the battle going on between lie and truth? Indeed, since the Garden, the human mind has been caught in this tug-of-war between Satan and God. Are we going to believe what God says or the serpent says? All good fiction deals with a lie/truth struggle and that struggle is an open door for us to engage spiritually.
Let me show you how I read devotionally some of my favorite books.
- My favorite Becky Wade book ever, My Stubborn Heart (which, by the way, I do plenty of intentional swooning over Matt Jareau as much as I do intentional soul-searching throughout the story. The two don’t have to be exclusive). This is one of the lie/truth battles: is God good when bad things happen? Matt can’t trust God’s goodness. And back and forth we tug as we examine that question in light of our own experiences. Or consider this battle that Kate faces: Is God trustworthy enough for me to relinquish control on my life? No, not if that means giving up the man I love. God wouldn’t deprive me like that. Yes, I relinquish even my own happiness for the joy of obedience and trusting a God I know is good. My turn—what am I holding onto in life because it is a good gift but really I know God is asking me to trust him with it and let it go? Ouch. That’s going to call for action on my part, all because I entered Kate and Matt’s struggle and allowed the Holy Spirit to make the story more than entertainment.
- One of my favorite Ronie Kendig books (I used to say favorite, but Tox . . .) is Raptor 6. Consider the battles in these questions: How much am I willing to sacrifice for others and does God’s protection mean our safety? This is tricky because desiring to be safe is not sinful or wrong, and our sacrifices can result from selfish motives. But I really had to look hard inside myself as I watched Zahrah make courageous decisions from a spirit that fully trusted the Lord even in certain danger. Was I capable of being that selfless? I didn’t think so and that was convicting.
- A Lasting Impression, by Tamera Alexander. Claire faces the dilemma of wearing a façade or being who God called her to be. The lie she battles: I’m not worthy to be used by God. My gifts are not good enough. Claire’s struggle forced me to face how I view the gifts God’s given me. When I lead in worship, am I seeking to please God or am I seeking the reward of man’s praise?
Here’s the beautiful thing. What the Spirit speaks to you about in a story might be different than what he speaks to me about because you’re in a different place. When you read My Stubborn Heart, you might struggle with being honest about disappointments in your past. When you read Raptor 6, you might have to face your own traumatic abuse. When you read A Lasting Impression, you might ask God for greater confidence in your identity in him. And that’s why discussing stories with others is beneficial. We grow and change together.
Here’s another beautiful thing. You can glean spiritual truth from any story because the communicator of truth is not the story itself but the Holy Spirit, and he speaks through stories of all kinds. You don’t have to choose fiction that is super spiritual, whatever that means, or heavy with scripture quotations, or dramatic or emotionally intense, or even explicitly Christian (we could list many examples in this category).
The key is to read with an openness and expectancy that God wants to speak to you. Through fiction. Through the Bible. Through friendships. Out of the blue. He speaks. He still speaks and moves and acts in our lives and the lives around us every moment.
Holy Spirit, quicken our hearts to see, hear, and respond.
Amen. Oh thank you so much, Sondra! Your thoughts have so touched my heart today! Important reminders.
A native of Washington State, Sondra Kraak grew up playing in the rain, hammering out Chopin at the piano, and running up and down the basketball court. Now settled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, she enjoys spending time with her husband and children, blogging about spiritual truths, and writing historical romance set in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. She delights in sharing stories that not only entertain but nourish the soul. Her debut novel, One Plus One Equals Trouble, was a Genesis semi-finalist (2015) and the winner of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference Unpublished Women’s Fiction Award (2015). Sondra has since published three novels.
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What about you? Is there a particular work of fiction that God has used to speak truth to your spirit?
I love this and the Spirit challenges and teaches me through fiction all the time! Just Look Up by Courtney Walsh is the most recent and profound example that comes to mind. Am I neglecting my real life relationships while engrossed in the world of internet?
Yes!!!! That’s one I was thinking of too!
Thanks for stopping by, Beth!
This is a five star blog post, isn’t it? Sondra has put into words what I wouldn’t have known how to communicate, because I am definitely impacted by stories.
A couple examples of books? “Band of Sisters” by Cathy Gohlke. I read it (the first time) at a point when our church was literally beginning a ministry to those in our community whom some might consider “least of these”.
Another example is “The Prayer Box” by Lisa Wingate. It just blew away to be reminded in such a brilliant way of how God can minister through the prayers of His people; prayers that often times we never know surround us.
And Sondra’s book “Such a Hope” was a poignant reminder to me that the gifts of the Spirit are alive and well, we worship a God who “heals”, and the power of His Spirit in us is something to be embraced, whether those around always understand Him or not.
Beautifully said, Rebecca!!
Thanks, Rebecca! I’m trying to practice my own commitment to reading IN HIM as I read Ronie’s Crown of Souls. So much in there about justice and human responsibility verses God’s sovereignty. I’m more like Alec than I want to admit, trying to take things into my own hands.
Beautiful post, Sondra! I love your thoughts on this subject. I notice the inspirational threads running through a story, but I don’t often ponder on how I can apply them to my life.
Thanks, Carrie and Sondra! It was so much fun meeting you both in person and chatting with you at CFRR! Hugs to you both!
HUGS to you, my BFFF
I loved meeting you, too, Winnie! Thanks for taking time to read the post!
Love this post! ❤️ Thank you, Sondra!
You’re welcome, Katie!
Love this post, Sondra! Christian fiction speaks truth to me all the time!
I knew I wasn’t alone, Caryl! This is what draws Christian readers together, right?
A wonderful post explaining how I feel too.
I love Sondra’s posts
Brenda, it’s great to find a kindred spirit!
I have had several books where, through the author, the Lord spoke to my heart.
I would love to win a paperback
thanks for commenting, Charlotte! There’s no giveaway going on for this post right now, though.