Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Redeeming--Reclaiming--the Romance Genre

ID-100160826Culture wars will always abound, and with them, false assumptions, misinterpretations, and confusion.

Add to this the fact that Christian fiction is still very much an emerging (and growing. Yay!) genre, and one would expect falsities and misconceptions to arise.

This is the case any time we make generalities, but as one of my wise crit partners once reminded me, one must be careful not to state absolutes that can't be verified. Or those that in fact can be falsified, if we'd but take the time to look past the stereotypes to the components within.

In other words, just because a chunk of romance novels on today's market would make your grandmother turn a deep shade of tomato doesn't mean ALL romances would. In truth, ID-10085912a large number of them quite likely would turn her heart to her husband and her Savior, reinforcing the biblical definitions of true love, as outlined in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, Ephesians 5:22-25, and Genesis 2:18-24.

True romance--the committed, holy, and pure love between a husband and wife--reveals, in a tangible, miraculous, and mysterious way, the love Christ has for the church. (Eph. 5:31-32)

Considering the great emphasis Scripture places on this most intimate of all human relationships, should we as Christians not write about it?

These were questions I wrestled with when I first became a novelist. Though I must say, I didn't wrestle with the questions so much as other's perception of them. Yes, I strive to please God above all else, but sometimes it's hard to drown out the opinions others throw one's way.

BeyondIDocoverI had recently finished my debut, a missional romance centered on Genesis 2:18-19, (Read the first few chapters free here. Buy it for under $8 here.) when influential evangelistic leaders began saturating the web with articles condemning ALL romance novels, making no distinction between the secular and their Christian counter-parts.

And those who hadn't read the works of Francine Rivers or Mary Connealy or ...

the book of Ruth?

And Hosea (the book Francine Rivers' Redeeming Love is based on)?

And... (insert a slight chuckle, for I'm certain you caught my point)

heartily agreed!

And so, I grew quiet, convinced in my call but concerned regarding the opinion of others. Some of whom I greatly respected.

But God continued to unfold beautiful stories within me, stories that reminded me of my MenStevesweet, strong, Christ-focused husband.

Stories of men and women seeking to find that most sacred of human relationships, the one that would "complete" them, that would bring strength to their weaknesses and who, united in mission and ministry, would help them discover, embrace, and live out what God created them to do.

Which is, I believe, the deeper meaning behind Genesis 2:18:

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.”

A helper/helpmate, who brings out the very best in their spouse, not so they can achieve great wealth or worldly esteem but rather, so they, together, can fulfill that which they were created to do.

In essence, I write about what I know, for I would be nowhere near the woman I am now--nowhere near the friend, the wife, the mother, the Christ-follower--if not for my real-life hero. (Incidentally, the picture of me and my handsome railroader above was taken a couple weeks after my husband donated a kidney. Talk about a real-life hero!)

IDOTo my love, my warrior, and closest friend, thank you for showing me, daily, what biblical romance looks like. Thank you for standing behind me as I seek to live out that which Christ called me to--writing stories that reveal the depth and power of His love and grace. Thank you for holding me through my darkest moments, carrying me through my greatest struggles, and walking beside me through the immeasurable joys that can only be experienced in the context of "till death do we part."

And thanks to the Savior that melded our hearts together and showed us true romance--the kind only Christ can birth and sustain--is something to be celebrated.

What are your thoughts on this topic? Are you an inspirational (the official term for Christian fiction) romance lover? What do you enjoy most about the novels you read? Who's your favorite author? What are some qualities you feel make up a great hero, in life and in fiction?

Share your thoughts with us!

10 comments:

  1. Great post Jennifer. I often get frustrated by the bad rap Inspirational romance gets. Especially when people call it fluff. We writers work really hard to weave Biblical truths into our fiction. And like Janette Oke, I view my books as paper missionaries. I figure nonbelievers are much more apt to read a romance you loan them than if you get them a Bible.
    I can't wait to read your debut. It's on my list of to be acquired books. As soon as I meet my current deadline.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi, Shannon,

    Thanks for stopping by, and that's such a great point! You know, I was going to mention Janette Oke in the post as well because her books had such a huge impact on me early in my marriage. Every time I'd read one of her books, I'd come away with a strong desire to treat my husband as she did hers. :)

    I love your books, too, and how you organically weave biblical truths into your novels. :)

    Thanks for the comments regarding my debut! I hope you enjoy it!

    ReplyDelete
  3. I'm guessing Beyond I Do will arrive in my mailbox any day now, :) and when it does, I will once again enjoy a meaningful and romantic read from the heart of an author I respect. Jennifer, I know you seek the heart of the number one Author in all you do. If He can write about romance all throughout the Scripture then surely that is a topic hot on His heart, especially since human romance is designed to reflect Christ's love for His Bride, the Church, as you mentioned.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks, Eileen! I hope it will! :)

    Your words humble me, and I would say the same about you.

    Amen to that!

    ReplyDelete
  5. "God continued to unfold beautiful stories within me." Beautiful stories they are, Jennifer. =) Wonderful post!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Love this post, Jennifer! I, too, consider my stories of Christian romance a ministry - one God called me to. It IS disheartening when people downplay our ministry because they don't understand it or don't agree with it. But then, every worthwhile ministry meets with some kind of resistance or disregard. The bottom line is, what God calls us to, man has no right or ability to "uncall" us from. Write on, Christian authors! :)

    ReplyDelete
  7. So true, Delia,

    I love your perspective, and I love your stories! :)

    ReplyDelete
  8. Ah, that's so sweet. I didn't mean that, but I appreciate your kind words. :)

    ReplyDelete
  9. By the way, I'm curious, is that you and your husband in the wedding pic? Maybe you donned your bridal garb for the shot? :)

    ReplyDelete
  10. It is, Eileen. :) I love your profile picture, by the way! Do you live near a beach or was that taken on a vacation?

    ReplyDelete