Thursday, December 6, 2012

To Forgive is Divine

By Lisa Karon Richardson

One of the best thing about Christian fiction is the freedom to include a spiritual dimension to our characters. An element of human nature that much general market fiction ignores all together. If explored, this element allows for deeper more realistic characterization.

In No Substitute, circumstances conspire to force the heroine, Amy, to return to her hometown. Once there she ends up having to face, Quentin, the man who broke her heart once upon a time.

But Amy’s not seventeen anymore. She’s grown up. Both physically and spiritually and figures she can handle whatever might come. She takes a job as a substitute English teacher and winds up with Quentin’s daughter in her class. As they spend time together, Amy realizes that Quentin is suffering and talks to him about forgiveness. A challenge she figures she’s conquered. After all she knows she has a forgiving heart—she’s trying to help the very man who has hurt her the most. It surprises her to realize there's an area of her life where she still has something to learn about forgiveness herself.

The internal tension brought on by that realization rings so true. God has an amazing way of finding ways to point out our blind spots. It’s not easy to trust him in the midst of the dismantling process… you know, that part where he is deconstructing our complacency and shining the light on areas we thought we’d cleaned out already. Sadly, it’s a lot like housework. Those areas that don’t get any attention tend to get cobwebby and grimy.

Anyone who has been a Christian for long has found themselves in Amy’s shoes. Shocked to find that we have spiritual spadework to do in an area we were confident of having conquered. Don’t lose faith. It doesn’t mean you didn’t, just means that we are complex beings and that there are more aspects to emotional and spiritual issues than we credit at times. 

Have you ever been surprised to find that God was calling you to readdress an area of your life? How did you handle it? Was it an easier lesson to learn the second time? 

If you've read No Substitute, what spiritual theme did you discover?


  1. Lisa, you captured this so well. Suzie did an excellent job of showing this without preaching it!

    I think God gave me the desire to write because it's the best way I learn to recognize the spiritual lessons I need to work on.

    Thank you for an excellent reminder.

    This is one of the reasons I'd recommend this sweet story!

  2. Morning all,

    I will be in meetings all day, but will check in if I can. Just wanted to also make the point that just because we might still have work to do, doesn't invalidate the work we've already done in an area. It doesn't mean we were wrong. It just means that now we're more mature and might be able to better explore an aspect of forgiveness, or trust, or love, or whatever the issue might be that we didn't and couldn't have previously appreciated.

  3. I'll be talking about this in my review tomorrow, but I like the way she explored this theme in several relationships in the book, not just hero and heroine. Good use of the "moral premise" concept. I would definitely say forgiveness is the main theme, and related to that, second chances.

  4. I can't prove this theory but I like to think learning and relearning the same lesson is like going up a spiral staircase. It is still the same lesson I'm learning again but hopefully it is on a higher level than before. For example, if God is testing me in the area of trust, I have learned to trust Him in the past but I hope I'm learning to trust Him on a different higher, deeper level the next time this lesson comes up.

    elaineking1 at hotmail dot com

  5. I love this, Lisa. It's so true that just because we realize we have more work to do, it doesn't mean we have weak faith or have failed. I think sometimes when we have a certain issue that we try to teach others about, God uses that to show us where we need to improve ourselves. That God of ours, he's pretty funny like that. ;-)

  6. Thank you, Deb. I try extra hard not to preach. It's definitely not my style.

    Dina, I am so in love with the idea of second chances. God did that pretty well for us, didn't he? :-)

    Elaine, that is a beautiful image. I love it. Thank you for that.

  7. Amen or "oh, me"!!!
    I think God has us on a mastery learning program. We keep taking the same tests over and over again until we get an "A". And even then, there are these little pop quizzes periodically to make sure we're retaining the information. :)
    Suzie, I'm so looking forward to reading No Substitute. I have it on my Kindle now, just have to make time to read!

  8. Thank you, Niki. I can't wait to hear if you enjoy it. I love the idea of God having a master learning program. I know I need one for sure! I loce to get straight "A"s, but somehow I think I'd be in this class a very long time before I could get straight "A"s. ;-)

  9. Deb said, "I think God gave me the desire to write because it's the best way I learn to recognize the spiritual lessons I need to work on."

    Oh, man, SO true! So true.

  10. Oh I totally agree, DeAnna! I learn so much from writing.

  11. Great post, Lisa. I've been going through a season of re-learning lately, so this was appropriate to my circumstances. Spadework, as you called it.

    Suzie did such a good job with the spiritual themes. Another one in the book? That God can use all things for His good.

  12. Thank you, Susie. I think I always worry that my spiritual theme is going to be too lame.

    I think we're always relearning. I know I am.

  13. I just want everyone to know I get everything right on the first time. Ahem.

    Perhaps God has us revisit areas because we need to learn a deeper lesson than we could process the first time. Kind of like when an experienced writer works with a new writer. She goes over the pages and offers some suggestions for an area the new author needs to learn. And then the new author works on that until she has incorporated it into all her work. Then her mentor goes over the same passage and works with her on another aspect of her writing. Each visit to the same text strengths the new writer in another area.

  14. Hi CJ. Everything? Really? I'm so impressed. Can you teach me? Lol.

    I agree with you. We always need to learn deeper lessons because we've grown and now we can learn more.

  15. CJ, I'm impressed. (Not by your dazzling perfection, but by your analogy.) Great way to put it.

  16. Great post, Lisa. And Deb... oh my gosh, I so agree about God showing me what I need to work on through my writing. With me, he brings up issues that I may have ignored, or old wounds I tried not to deal with. By the time God's done with me, I might be able to fill a library!

  17. Great post, Lisa. And Deb... oh my gosh, I so agree about God showing me what I need to work on through my writing. With me, he brings up issues that I may have ignored, or old wounds I tried not to deal with. By the time God's done with me, I might be able to fill a library!


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