Years ago when I was trying to get my first novel published, I met with an editor who pushed my synopsis back across the table towards me and said with a harumph, “It’s way too dark. Our readers don’t want dark. They’ve got enough of that. They want to escape.”
Eventually I did publish that novel, and it’s called How Sweet the Sound.
In fact, Tyndale House is re-releasing it this fall and I couldn’t be more thrilled.
Still, that editor had a valid point.
There’s a lot of dark in the world. I’m frankly overwhelmed with how vitriolic our culture is, and I don’t remember a time since I’ve been on the planet where things have been quite this stirred up. Why read a story or see a movie or listen to music that’s dark, when we’re staggering around in pitch blackness all day long?
One reader of How Sweet the Sound commented that the title belies the dark themes of the story, and if you only read the first few chapters, she’s absolutely right. There’s nothing good or light or cheery about a family ravaged by generational sexual abuse. There wasn’t anything good or light or cheery about it either when Tamar, in 2 Samuel 13, suffered the same fate.
But by the end of the story, there is hope.
Loads of it.
Three novels later, and I admit my writing tends toward some deep and painful themes. That’s because each of my stories begins with something–a news story, an historical event, an injustice–that breaks my heart. (Believe me, there are days when I wonder what it would be like to write cozy mysteries or Hallmark-style romances.)
And each of my stories ends with hope.
Not the sort of hope where everything is tied up with a big, red bow and all the characters ride off in the sunset. But the sort of hope that comes when you learn you’re not alone, and that it’s possible to find joy in the midst of pain and suffering.
Still, I learned something from that editor, and from several editors since.
Darkness and pain must be balanced with light.
The world is dying a little more every day because it is starving for the light and color God has given to us.
As a follower of Jesus, I write stories from a Christian worldview. And while I am often passionate about the need for stories which don’t sugarcoat pain and tragedy, I’m even more passionate about the call to bring hope to a hurting world.
Even without a Christian worldview, the world needs goodness. The world needs kindness. The world needs hope. The world needs love.
And the world needs that from us, now more than ever.
As confusing as headlines and media can be, at the end of the day we are left with two basic choices:
We can spread darkness.
Or we can spread light.
We can be angry.
Or we can give grace.
We can hate.
Or we can love.
We were made to be light, dear ones.
We were made to be on this earth, here and now, for such a time as this, for a purpose:
To show the world the colors of life and hope.
We have to acknowledge the darkness, yes.
But we have to know that truth and love can obliterate it
if we choose
Dear Lord, begin with me.
“Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16 (TMV)