How God Saved Me While I Read A Novel
By Sally Apokedak
When I was a young woman, I had a job that took me to Fairbanks, Alaska, one week a month. My work auditing small stores brought me into contact with plenty of paperback book racks, and I always picked up a few books on my first day in town, to read in the evenings during the week.
One trip I found myself in my hotel, happily snuggled down with a bag of cookies, a jug of milk, and a novel—Papa’s Daughter written by Thyra Ferre Bjorn.
It was during the reading of that book that God saved me.
The author never preached a sermon or invited her readers to ask Jesus into their hearts. None of her characters decided to accept Jesus as Savior.
Here’s the part of the story that convicted me:
A husband tells his wife not to go out because she’s eight months pregnant and the sidewalks are icy. After he leaves, the wife decides she can visit her sister and be home again before her husband gets back from work.
She slips on the ice and loses the baby.
Knowing how much her husband was looking forward to the child’s birth, the woman is terrified that he’ll hate her. But he forgives her without a word of rebuke. He rushes to her hospital bed, hugs her tightly, and weeps with her.
Here’s the gospel message in that passage:
A rebellious woman disobeys the one in authority over her, and her disobedience causes the death of his beloved first-born son. She dreads seeing the one in authority because she knows she deserves his wrath. But the good husband forgives. Instead of holding on to his love for the child, he turns away from the son and chooses to love the woman. He forgives her and restores the relationship she broke by her sin. He doesn’t yell. He doesn’t exact payment in any form. The innocent child dies, paying the consequences for the woman’s sin, and his father forgives.
But I didn’t see that gospel until many years later when I was telling a friend how I was saved. All I saw as I was reading, was the surface story and how that related to my life experience:
A women disobeyed her husband and killed the child he loved. He forgave her.
I will never forget how my own sin slammed into me as I cried with the character over her loss. For the first time, I realized that I had killed two human beings by abortion. They were children! As that character and her husband wept over the loss of the baby, I was forced to see that the babies I’d killed were real people. And they were God’s children, not mine. I didn’t create them. I didn’t own them.
I had always seen God as a party-pooper who wanted to withhold good things from me. After all, who was hurt with my drugs, sex, and rock and roll? It was all harmless fun, I figured. But that night I saw that my harmless fun was wicked, wicked stuff and that I had fallen to the point of murdering innocents, all for the sake of having my fun. All God had ever done was love me and try to protect me from my own evil impulses, and all I had ever done was treat him with contempt.
I was so sorry, and in that instant God’s love and comfort flooded over me, and I knew he forgave me as surely as the woman’s husband, in the book, had forgiven her. I was a new creature—in the blink of an eye. My life was forever changed.
I doubt that Thyra Ferre Bjorn was making a statement about abortion when she wrote her book in the 1950s. I don’t think she intended to prick the heart of a young woman, some thirty years later, who had purposefully killed two of her children via the abortionist’s table.
But God used her book to save my life. And he did that even though I didn’t understand how the author had woven the gospel into the story. My mind didn’t get the whole picture she painted, but my heart got enough of it.
A book is first published by a big New York publisher in 1958. I stumble across a copy in 1984 in a dusty little store in a far-away Alaskan town. By the time I read the book, the author has been dead nine years. Who owns the characters? Who owns the story?
The author owns the story she created, the reader owns the story she reads, and over all the Holy Spirit owns the book and the author and the reader.
Before I was born, God moved Thyra Ferre Bjorn to write a story that was perfectly fit for my needs.
Sometimes I wonder if we should worry less about what makes for Christian fiction and just write. We Christian writers have the great privilege of being yokefellows with God. I think that should free us up to write fearlessly. We can try new things. We can weave the gospel into the background instead of having it out front. We can put in Christ figures that are as flawed as David and Satan figures that are beautiful and fun to be around. We can write for friends and family without worrying about whether we’ll ever be published or not. God has given us our minds and our unique life experiences, and he has given us the skill and the desire to write our stories. We can trust him to prepare readers with ears to hear.
Sally Apokedak, grand prize winner of the recent Novel Journey Out of the Slush Pile contest, lives with her son and daughter and old, old mother in the lovely southern city of Atlanta. She does most of her blogging at Whispers of Dawn and some of her commenting here at Speculative Faith.