Yesterday I was thinking about darkness and light and my first adult novel, Afton of Margate Castle. I’ve alluded to it before–I wrote it back in the “dark ages” of Christian fiction, when the market was young and so was I. It also happened to be set in the Dark Ages, so it contained a lot of . . . well, darkness. The young heroine is a villein (another word for serf) and she is given in marriage to an old, scrubby fellow who is cruel and demanding and seeks to humiliate her . . . and so he does. It’s a medieval picture of an abused wife, which I think was rather common because women were little more than chattel in those days.
After I wrote that story, some folks were less than pleased with it precisely because it was dark and disturbing. One woman wrote to tell me it ought to be “rated R” and frankly, I wouldn’t argue with that–I didn’t write it for children. And just because a book is Christian fiction (which means it contains a Christian message) doesn’t mean it’s rated G.
Long story short, I spent one afternoon weeping in my office and asking the Lord if I’d made a mistake in writing that book. I’d encountered some fairly strong resistance, and I wasn’t used to that kind of feedback. (As a pastor’s wife, I want everyone to be happy with me.) But even after weeping my heart out, I knew the book was what it was supposed to be. In order to show the light of grace and forgiveness, I needed to show the darkness of depravity and sin.
Fast forward several years. I was sitting at a table at a Women of Faith event, signing copies of The Pearl, when a woman walked up to me. “I’ve always wanted to meet you,” she said, “because you saved my life.”
I’d never heard that before. When I asked her to explain, she lowered her voice and looked me straight in the eye. “I was raped,” she said, “and thought no one could understand. And then I read Afton of Margate Castle, and that book pulled me through.”
Ah, great grace. I’d been smarting over that book for years, and God, in his graciousness, allowed me to see how its message had borne fruit in one precious life.
God is good.