David Meigs is a novelist with a background in youth outreach, specializing in ministry to at-risk youth and their families. Though his writing is enjoyed by all ages, his novels provide a unique, life-changing quality, critical for the youth of today. David and his family lives in Seabeck, Washington, where he serves his church as youth pastor.
The Epiphany Power of Fiction
I want to say a special thank you to those of you who have written to me with comments, questions, and book recommendations. You rock! I recently received two, nearly identical questions on the topic of life change. If I were to morph them together, it would read something like this:
Can God really use our novels to bring about significant life change in our readers?
Last week, the same topic came up in the home of a friend. As fellow pastors, we would usually talk about church related things. But the conversation turned to the subject of my writing ministry. After a brief explanation of my passion for writing fiction, my friend’s wife turned to me and said; “You know, over the years God has frequently used novels to inspire new growth in my life.” I immediately recalled those earlier questions, and I decided then and there that this would be our topic for this month.
The forest and the trees.
My father was an amazing man. He advanced very quickly in his career with the fire service, setting many records as he went. It was not surprising to anyone who knew him when he became chief at a relatively young age. Then tragedy struck, and a car accident left him paralyzed from the neck down. The prospect of spending the second half of his life depending on others for virtually everything would depress anyone—but not my dad.
Problem solving was one of Dad’s greatest attributes, and he used his creative ingenuity to find new ways to do what he could no longer do. Independence mattered a great deal to my father, so we installed automatic door openers, and even an elevator, so he could travel to all areas of his huge three-story home. With a combination of modern gadgetry, old fashioned creativity, and his indomitable spirit, he soon learned new ways to feed himself, take his medications, read books, and a thousand other things that seemed impossible only a few years earlier.
Then one day, it finally happened—he was confronted by a problem too hard for him to solve on his own. You see, one evening when the night nurse came to take him upstairs and put him to bed, the nurse accidently locked herself in the basement. She had taken a few dirty towels downstairs to the laundry and, out of habit, locked the staircase door behind her. Unfortunately, she had already locked all the exterior doors and turned off the automatic door opener for the night. For the next few hours, my dad and his nurse tried to figure a way to get her back into the main section of the house. They checked all the windows, but they too were locked.
After a few hours of trying everything they could think of, they finally gave up. That’s when my dad called, asking for help. “David, I’m sorry to bother you at this time of night, but could you drive over here and let the nurse back into the house? She locked herself out.”
I made a few suggestions of my own, but he assured me that they had already tried everything. Because my wife had just finished her shift at the hospital and could get there much sooner than I could, she would do the honors.
But one look at my wife’s mystified face as she walked through the door told me that there was more to the story than I already knew.
“Why couldn’t she have just taken the elevator?” my wife asked.
At that, we both cracked up laughing. It was a simple case of not being able to see the forest for the trees. They were too close to the problem to see the obvious solution. And, yes, the problem seemed too difficult for me, as well. However, as is frequently true of her, my darling wife saw straight to the heart of the problem. I am blessed to have her.
The epiphany power of fiction.
Between the covers of any good novel, readers are wonderfully transported into fictional worlds. They identify with the characters, including their needs, desires, and even their frailties. Unlike real life, readers are afforded the ability to see the outcomes of the characters’ choices with a degree of objectivity. In the real world, life is too much in our face to see things clearly. As was the case with my father and his nurse, even the most obvious solutions to our problems can hide under the murky depths of subjectivity.
As a minister, I have long learned the power of using story illustrations to exhibit important truths. Jesus also used this potent tool to teach the crowds, and at times even his disciples. Just as with my friend’s wife, sometimes readers will suddenly gain a new understanding that changes their lives. And that is what life-transforming fiction is all about.
Please keep those e-mails coming.
Is there a novel you would like to recommend, or do you have any comments or suggestions for future topics? Drop me a line at email@example.com.