I remember very vividly the moment I realized there was a whole realm of fiction that I never knew existed.
I was a new staff member at WWIB, a Christian radio station in western Wisconsin and each week we would gather in the boardroom as a staff to pray over the requests that had been sent in. The shelves in the boardroom always caught my attention and tripped over from my OCD because they were covered in piles of books. Higgledy piggledy piles of disorganized books.
Having studied literature, I’ve always felt a magnetic pull from any pile of books, so it didn’t take long for me to ask about them. The answer was a dram come true.
“Oh they’re review copies from publishers. Help yourself.”
HELP YOURSELF? Oh my.
So began a 23 year love of Christian fiction. It was in those early years that I met the work of Gilbert Morris, surely the granddaddy of the genre. Then Frank Peretti’s ‘This Present Darkness’ blew my mind and forever changed my walk with the Lord. I was able to walk in the sandals of Centurions in Masada and consider what the Second Coming might look like, courtesy of Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye.
Then there were the romances. So sweet. I had never really thought about how dating should look when you’re saved so there was a lot of food for thought there. Those piles of books morphed into a successful radio review show and I got to interview some of my very favorite writers.
Upon moving to England in 1996, Christian Fiction was somewhat sparse so I did a lot or re-reading – how did we live in a pre-Amazon world? But a few years later a move to Texas provided a huge library with more authors to try. The Baxter Family came home with me, along with a lot of Tracie Peterson, Lori Wick and more Gilbert Morris (it seems, in the best possible way, there is always another of his books to be read).
Then I found there was this thing called ‘romantic suspense.’ Seriously. As a new mom by this point, I didn’t nap much when my baby slept, I was too busy! Irene Hannon, Dee Henderson and Dani Pettrey can all probably claim to have added a bag or shadow to my face. When baby two came along and didn’t sleep much because she was unwell, I didn’t worry about company in those long nights watching over her. I had Karen Witemeyer, Becky Wade and Lawanna Blackwell to assist me, even making me smile along the way.
Romans 12 exhorts us to be in the world, but not of the world. So while I had been reading Patricia Cornwell, Nicholas Sparks and John Grisham whenever I didn’t have a good Christian book, they didn’t quite hit the spot. I didn’t turn their pages in rhythm with my heart.
There are some secular books that are fantastic works of art that can transport readers to far away places so they can witness unimaginable events. However, books of the world don’t move me one inch closer to Heaven in the real world (borrowing some artistic license from Steven Curtis Chapman).
When I felt so nauseous I couldn’t move in the first trimester of pregnancy, when I was at a loss following the death of my brother, at times when I have been more cold than hot in my faith these books have cajoled, nudged or full on shoved me back on the path. They have reminded me that Heaven is coming; that we are all fearfully and wonderfully made and completely loved by the God of the universe and most importantly they have shown me that no matter what, we are never, ever alone.
I don’t mean to ever suggest or imply I wasn’t reading scripture all this time too, I have been. I’m merely suggesting that done well, this genre is magnificent.
I’d love to know why you read Christian fiction and if you have a favorite author or genre? Do please leave a comment.