Lisa McKay Wolfe

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 concept.

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 delightful hope.

 “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 flight?

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.

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