Now That I Think About It, Annoying Is Right

This post contains spoilers.

Three stars was bad enough, but when I reached the last sentence, my heart sank.

The book started to turn into a bit of a soap opera which (was) annoying.

That stung. Oh boy, did it sting, especially since the reader seemed to have liked part I of River of Life well enough. Part II, though, annoyed her. Who wants to hear their labor of love and the focus of hundreds of hours of eye-straining writing and revisions annoyed someone?

After the cut to my ego healed a bit, I had to admit her observation wasn’t wrong. Part II of the story is fraught with interpersonal conflict between the characters, which, in turn, affects the relationships of those around them. Isn’t that the very nature of a soap opera?

So, why did I allow the overall story to devolve to that point? Because–again, as I thought about it–that was the point of the story. Part of it, anyway.

In Part I of River of Life (formerly titled Learning to Live Again) the characters struggle to weigh their desires and feelings against the Scriptures and God’s commands. Doing so isn’t always easy, especially where love and the heart is concerned. More so when that heart has been hurt as much as Clay’s and Vicky’s has been. But, we as Christians are expected to know and to follow God’s commands, even when growing in faith proves to be difficult. Not out of compulsion, but because we love Him who first loved us.

However, the reality is when it comes down to making decisions, most people follow their hearts. They seem to have an idea that God will be okay with it because they themselves are okay with it, and God loves us, right?

But there are consequences to our actions, particularly when those actions go against Biblical teaching (don’t ask me how I know this.) In the case of River of Life, while the characters had come to an understanding at the end of the first part of the story, they find their wants are suddenly within reach at the beginning of part two. Oh joy. After years of heartache, they can finally be happy!

There’s a catch (isn’t there always?) Because of events that occurred earlier in the story, the pastor, to whom they go for advice, advises them to wait before moving forward. With sound reasoning from a Biblical perspective, he presents them with a list of problems that could occur if they make a snap decision. Problems like hurting people, ruining relationships, and staining their Christian witness. To avoid all that, all they have to do it wait a little longer.

Do they listen? They do not. They proceed to do as they please, and one by one, the pastor’s warnings come to fruition. Relationships are affected and damaged, and people are hurt. Therein lies the soap opera.

Why am I admitting all this? Because this is a picture of real life. My husband has been in the ministry for over seventeen years. I cannot count the number of times people have come to him for advice and promptly ignored it. The results were consequences no one wanted, but ones they had to live with because they did what was right in their own eyes (see the book of “Judges”) instead of truly seeking God’s will. People were hurt, relationships were ruined, and the name of Christ was stained. It’s always worrisome, but I have to admit that it’s a tad annoying as well. While I didn’t purposefully copy that pattern while writing the story, it has happened so often, it unconsciously became a part of it.

I’m also saying all this because, as we see at the end of River of Life, God is bigger than all of our mistakes, annoying and otherwise, and while our disobedience hurts Him, He can still use us and our blunders to complete His good will.

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.  – Romans 8:28

That we have a loving God who is willing to forgive our sins and who loves us despite ourselves is the main point of River of Life. That knowledge changes lives, and sharing that good news was my goal in writing this story.

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