Dave Meigs

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.

Life-Transforming Fiction

At the End of Your Rope?

Have you ever wondered where the phrase at the end of your rope came from? According to a late friend and former mentor of mine, the phrase originated around the beginning of World War II. This friend had been an instructor responsible for training soldiers in mountain warfare/survival skills. One of the first lessons was to train the men to harness themselves to a rope and repel down a sheer cliff. The instructors stressed to the soldiers that they must pay strict attention to how much line remained beneath them. Otherwise, an unaware climber could travel too fast when they came to the end of his rope and fall to his death.

To further illustrate the importance of this lesson, instructors would awaken the soldiers in the middle of the night, transport them to the mountainside, and have them run the repelling drills in the dark. One at a time, the instructors would bring a trainee to the cliff, have them harness up, and send them down. What they did not tell the soldiers was that unlike their repelling drills done in the daylight, this rope was shortened so that it ended six or seven feet from the ground.

At night, the soldiers could not see even a few feet beneath them. Fortunately, most of the men would come to a surprised stop as they reached the end of their lines, and would typically cry out for help. Then an instructor would tap the side of their boots, and tell them it was safe to drop. But others who raced down the rope, would feel the last of their rope slip through their harnesses and scream as they fell the last few feet to the ground. You can bet that after this few soldiers ever allowed themselves to come to the end of their ropes.

This simple phrase has become an idiom for allowing the circumstances of life to push us past the limit of our ability to cope. Most people find themselves in this situation at some point in their lives. It might be a debilitating illness, the loss of a loved one, or even a financial disaster with no foreseeable remedy in sight. It is the place in life where the last rays of hope are swallowed whole, leaving nothing but utter darkness.

I love how inspirational fiction often mirrors life. In the real world, good people often make poor choices that lead to tragic outcomes. The same is true of fiction. Bringing a story character to the end of his rope is the cornerstone of most inspirational fiction we write. But unlike real life, the author has the ability to show the big picture, giving readers a perspective beyond what is possible when facing the same kinds of real-life problems on their own.

Several years ago I had the opportunity to visit with a friend from church. I asked her about how she came to know our Lord, and I will never forget her answer. An avid reader, she was always eyeing the best-seller charts for the next new adventure to submerge herself in. Around that time the Left Behind series by Jerry Jenkins was beginning to take off. It was the first Christian fiction title she had ever read.

Not having been raised in church, she found herself closely identifying with some of the characters who were themselves coming face-to-face with the possibility that there really was a God and what the horrors of rejecting His will for their lives might entail. Adding to that, the concept of the world coming to an end caused a spiritual crisis in her life. You could say that in a very real way, reading those books brought her to the end of her rope.

She began questioning her values and how she had been raising her children. As a single mother, she realized it was up to her to find the answers about God that she and her children needed. Before long, her search for truth got her reading the Bible. A few weeks later, she started attending a church and soon gave her life to Christ.

Jesus Himself often used parables to illustrate the power of truth through story. I like to think of these life-changing parables as the very first examples of inspirational fiction. As with my friend who came to Christ through reading the Left Behind series, peoples’ lives are transformed by the novels they read.

This exciting truth supports the sincere belief of many inspirational novelists, that for them writing is a calling from God. When you get down to it, an inspirational novelist’s function is not much different from that of any pastor or evangelist. A preacher uses stories to help bring the listener to a place of decision. Following Jesus’ own example, the stories we write reverberate in the readers’ minds, hearts, and souls.

That’s it for this month. Until we meet again, may God bless your imagination with many new heart-pounding ways to bring your characters to the end of their ropes, leading them to look upward for the help they need.