I'm starting a new series of posts on writers I admire.
In 2009 I saw My Hands
Came Away Red, on our library’s new fiction shelf. I read the
blurb and grabbed it, because it seemed different than the standard template
for Christian novels: Protagonist far from God, life falls apart, comes to
faith and life comes back together. I read it and loved how the heroine has
hope without the standard “happy ending” – her teen mission trip ended in disaster, she still feels underwater but
trusts she is rising.
I recommended it to my wife, then we recommended it to our
church book club, who also liked it. It reminded me of the little known novel by Elisabeth Elliot No Graven Image. It too is a tale of a missionary
effort ending in disaster where the heroine comes to find her worth in God, not
in her missionary success.
I've written about my love/hate relationship with the typical
evangelical happy ending (first
time, second time).
My conclusion, Christian stories should have a happy middle -- we're still in a
mess but we have hope in the mess. The conflict between God's promises and our
actual circumstances drives us to prayer, and out of prayer comes calmness and
peace. The image of Cori underwater, but rising, continues to evoke this
In 2012 I started following the Lisa McKay blog, the struggles of
expatriate life in Asia has a familiar tone. When
Love at the Speed of Email comes out, I order a copy, among several books I
picked to stock up of my Nook for three weeks in Uganda.
On the way to Uganda,
we sample the delights of our newest favorite place in Europe, the KLM elite
lounge in Amsterdam; free food and
drinks, and one last hour of free Internet access before Uganda where we
have to pay by the megabyte to connect. One last chance to play a Facebook
game, but I didn’t linger there very long. What else to check out while I have
free access? I thought of Lisa’s blog – was there an update about her broken
foot? I go there, and read about another medical hardship --husband Mike needs
back surgery immobilizing him for a month. Then she writes about Romans 8 “All
things work together for good.” The verse makes her angry, but also gives her
“Yes!” I say in my heart, “She’s got it.” The promises are
disappointing when we want instant results, but bring hope for long term needs.
That’s why I wrote a book about Jeremiah’s promises of the New Covenant but
kept it from having a typical evangelical happy ending, and why I titled it “Covenant of Hope.” That’s why I
elaborated a doctrine I’ve called “Faith and Reality”, or “Faith and
Circumstances;” how we should scrutinize with
great attention the promises of God and at the same time scrutinize with great
attention the circumstances of our lives, and accept that tension between the
two happens all the time.
So maybe I hadn’t been crazy to put Lisa McKay on my list of
influential women writers after only one novel. And on the flight to Uganda, I dove right in to“Love at the Speed of
Email” and was impressed with her thoughtful mind and her emotional honesty. And what
better place to read Love at the Speed of Email than on an international
Lisa got it again in writing about an informational banquet about
the sex trade. How dare she worry about what to wear and enjoy the rich dessert
so much when so many are suffering? And yet that is too easy a drama to make
the story about. She highlights one statement from the presentation: “hope
chases us,” and realizes that is the message, not hopelessness and cynicism
because one is unable to fundamentally change societies to end this plague, but
that individuals can find hope in their circumstances and choose to change, and
other individuals can find hope in seeking to help other individuals. Husband Mike gets it too, rejoicing one afternoon in joy, a respite from the usual struggles of being viewed as a living vending machine or seeing suffering that you cannot begin to cure.
So here’s to Lisa McKay Wolfe, one of the founding mothers of the
league of women that now dominate my Feedly feed, holding up the gospel of the
happy middle, that real life is complicated and messy, yet God is with us in it
and we can find hope and joy.