Funny, how the things that are important to us find their way into our stories whether we mean for them to or not. Things like forgiveness.
Years ago, a dear friend and I parted ways—because of me. We didn’t fight or reach any sort of impasse in our relationship. I simply felt like there were too many unresolved differences and that it would be better for me to release her. So I did.
I likened my decision to the Biblical account of Abraham and Lot, who amicably separated because their shepherds kept arguing. “I forgive you,” I wrote in response to my friend’s having asked me to forgive her, “but I think it would be better if we parted ways.”
Over the years, every so often, my husband would (irritatingly) suggest that I forgive my friend. Always, he was met with my defensiveness: “I don’t need to forgive her! I already have! We’ve just gone separate ways.”
Forgiveness doesn’t feel like a need to pull away from someone.
Forgiveness doesn’t keep replaying scenes that stir up past anger, hurt, or disappointment.
Forgiveness doesn’t drive a wedge between friends.
And after too many years, I realized that my husband was right. The real, ugly-as-it-gets reason that I’d ended the friendship was because I hadn’t forgiven my friend for all the times she’d hurt me. I spent months working through things in my heart with God, until one day, while I was driving, it suddenly occurred to me that I loved my friend.
I wept. In that singular, joyful moment, I realized I had the capacity, after all, to be a friend to this woman, simply because I had forgiven her.
We have a relationship once again. (And the grace she offered me after years of lost friendship is one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever been given.)
Forgiveness is powerful—it frees us from a prison of resentment and unresolved anger we were never meant to be in. And because I passionately believe that forgiveness is the key to emotional and relational health, it makes sense that some of my characters’ strongest moments happen when they forgive.
Mind you, I never wrote, “Rain will forgive this person” or “This is the scene where so-and-so forgives Rain” while I was plotting Stormrise. Rather, the forgiveness expressed in these scenes is a natural outgrowth of the character arcs, according to my views on forgiveness. In each instance, a character can choose whether to forgive or not. And I believe choosing forgiveness is the stronger (though not necessarily the likely) path.
Unforgiveness plays an equally strong role, not only in plotting, but in character backstory. For instance, in one brief comment, Sedge, one of the less likeable characters in Stormrise, reveals more than he means to:
It’s not fair, the way the good ones go first,” Sedge said. “I’d have traded my father for Grandmaster Denerek in a swift second.
In this scene, the characters are discussing the death of their Grandmaster. Sedge’s comment smacks of unforgiveness, whether Sedge knows it or not (and he probably doesn’t). His attitude and outlook have been formed by his lack of a good relationship with his father, and by the fact that he has (unconsciously) chosen to stay angry about it. What he’s really saying is, “I wish my father had died instead of Grandmaster Denerek.”
Wishing his dad were dead is a pretty good sign that he hasn’t forgiven him.
There are even more pivotal moments of forgiveness in Stormrise that I don’t want to mention (because, spoilers). But the bottom line is that I didn’t set out to weave the theme of forgiveness into my story. It was a natural outgrowth of the state of my heart.
I am forgiven. So I forgive.
Not that forgiveness is easy. Sometimes our hurt is so big (like Sedge’s) that it takes a lot of processing before we can truly forgive the person who has hurt us. And sometimes we aren’t aware that we’re carrying a secret grudge. (Psst. Grudge = unforgiveness.)
To deny the thread of forgiveness that makes its way into my writing—both the presence and the lack of it—is to deny my own heart. I know what years of unforgiveness feel like, and I know the sublime freedom of finally forgiving someone. It doesn’t surprise me that it’s such an important theme in my writing, despite never having set out for it to be.
Stormrise isn’t a story about forgiveness; it’s a story about a girl who hides herself in order to ultimately discover her identity and step forward to save her land and everyone she loves. But it wouldn’t be the story it is without the thread of forgiveness woven through its words.
And I didn’t even do it on purpose.
JILLIAN BOEHME is known to the online writing community as Authoress, hostess of Miss Snark’s First Victim, a blog for aspiring authors. In real life, she holds a degree in Music Education, sings with the Nashville Symphony Chorus, and homeschools her remaining youngster-at-home. She’s still crazy in love with her husband of more than thirty years and is happy to be surrounded by family and friends amid the rolling knolls of Middle Tennessee. Stormrise is her debut novel.
Stormrise Pre-order Contest
PREORDER STORMRISE BETWEEN NOW AND SEPTEMBER 23 TO RECEIVE A SIGNED BOOKMARK AND BE ENTERED INTO A DRAWING TO WIN THIS GORGEOUS, STORMRISE-INSPIRED PENDANT BY @T.ARCHJEWELRY! [Picture available on the pre-order page at the above link.]
YOU CAN ORDER A SIGNED COPY OF STORMRISE FROM PARNASSUS BOOKS! CLICK HERE TO ORDER!
1. PREORDER STORMRISE FROM ANY BOOKSTORE.
2. EMAIL A COPY OF YOUR RECEIPT TO JILLIAN@JILLIANBOEHME.COM.
3. IMPORTANT: PLEASE INCLUDE YOUR MAILING ADDRESS IN THE EMAIL.
4. YOU WILL RECEIVE A SIGNED BOOKMARK AND YOUR NAME WILL BE ENTERED INTO A DRAWING TO WIN THE PENDANT.
(IF YOU PREORDER A SIGNED COPY FROM PARNASSUS BOOKS, YOUR BOOKMARK WILL BE UNSIGNED AND WILL BE INCLUDED WITH YOUR ORDER. ALL OTHER BOOKMARKS WILL BE SIGNED AND MAILED SEPARATELY.)