Every story is His story
Written by Beth Moran
As an author who is also a Christian, I often get asked if I write Christian books. The people who ask me are always Christians (because they`re the only ones who care). But to answer that, I have to ask another question – what is a Christian book, or a Christian story… and does it matter?
I started seriously pondering this after getting a one star review rating. The reviewer didn`t hate the book. She said some lovely things about it. But what got to her was: “it had no spiritual depth, leaving me questions as to what the author`s religion is anyway.”
That made me smile. When religious people start questioning how religious I am anyway, I know I`m in good company.
I`m in company with the greatest storyteller who ever lived. The ultimate artist, bar none. This Master Author told stories that got religious people all wound up and irritated and offended. They didn`t get it. Why he did it. Or often what on earth he was on about.
And were I to engage with this type of reviewer – which I don`t, however tempting – I might ask them where Jesus mentioned God in his stories. And what about the book of Esther? All that drama, romance, intrigue, the evil villain and the brave heroine who saves her people. And not one mention of God. An entire book of the Bible that doesn`t mention God once. I`ve discovered that a significant section of the Christian market would discount it as not religious enough for them!
I remembered Jesus` stories while wrestling with this question about Christian books. Because we know God is in there, disguised as a father, a farmer, a woman. But on another level, they are simply brilliant stories. Funny, clever, shocking, moving, relatable. Yet somehow so profound that thousands of years, countless sermons and commentaries later we still haven`t plumbed the depths of those few sentences.
But – if you want to know more, you have to switch your brain on. Ask a question. Dig deeper.
So, as a writer, looking to the greatest storyteller for inspiration, what does that mean?
What does it mean for you, choosing what you read? Stories are powerful. It`s why Jesus told them. Because a good story makes us feel something. And it`s worth thinking about what we`re allowing to affect our emotions.
For me it means writing the best story I can, trusting that the Master Storyteller, living in me, will add layers, metaphors, twists and messages that I can`t even think of because, frankly, I`m not that deep. Stuff he wants to say to people who are going to read it, that I don`t know and never will.
And writing the best story I can means my books often feature church, to some extent, because I write about people and relationships, and churches provide such irresistibly weird and wonderful source material.
I consider Christian themes – forgiveness, transformation, community, truth – because these are the big themes for anyone who happens to be alive anywhere.
And the core running through my books is hope. That there is beauty in the mess and light in the darkness, and a way through every sorry situation we come across. There is a point to it all, and that point is love and the one who is love.
Because every happy ending is like a retelling, its own interpretation, of that eternal story: God will save the day, good will triumph over evil. I believe every human heart longs to hear that story above all else.
And for me, this is a Christian story. One that reminds us that our destiny should be a happy ending. We all need saving. Love wins.
So, let`s not get too hung up on categorising stories as Christian or not. Whether they mention God or not. Because to some extent, every story is his. If it speaks of love, or resolution, or nature, or triumph or transformation or courage or being found or truth or justice or grace or a happy ending…
And the same is true for your story. You might write, speak, simply chat over coffee with a friend. But when she asks “how are you?” don`t be afraid to tell your story, don`t place value on whether you managed to get Jesus in there, or mention church or a Bible verse. Don`t think if the story isn`t all nice and neat featuring you as utterly lovely that it isn`t a story God would want you to tell.
Because when we are people who share our stories, truthfully, honestly, hopefully, one day someone will say “I`m questioning what is your religion anyway?” And then we get to tell the best story of all.
Beth Moran initially worked as a biochemist, then antenatal educator before following her dream of becoming an author. She overcame selective mutism to become a passionate communicator, regularly featuring on BBC Radio and speaking at conferences. A leader at The King`s Church, Arnold, she is also trustee of the national women`s network Free Range Chicks. This gives her ample opportunity to organise events including two of her favourite things – food and dancing. She lives on the outskirts of Sherwood Forest country with her husband and three fantastic teenagers.