What Place Does Story Have In The Midst of Tragedy?

by | May 22, 2018 | Heidi's Updates

When I went on social media this past Friday afternoon and saw news of yet another school shooting, my heart sank. But the shock, quite sadly, was gone. Instead, replacing it was a deep sadness, a horrible resignation that this seems to be a new norm for our country.

I didn’t google the details. I couldn’t stomach it at the moment, and yet as this past weekend wore on, I felt the need to speak into the tragedy. Only, quite simply, I have no words.

At times, it feels as if the only words I have are in the story I told involving such issues, tucked within characters and plot that I wrote more than a year ago. When I wrote into these issues, I didn’t know what this year would bring for all of us.

Now, I am haunted by the pictures of those who were victims of this most recent tragedy. Of Jared Black, who planned a birthday party this Saturday. Of Glenda Perkins, a favorite substitute teacher.  Of Christian Riley Garcia, who planned a new room just days before, Psalm 46:10 written on a 2 x 4 he posed beside, the words, “Be still and know that I am God,” tearing my heart apart at the same time that they instill hope in what seems to be a message from the great beyond. 

When news of the Parkland, Florida shootings came this past February, I sat in shocked silence along with the rest of our country. Every school shooting brings me back to memories of Sandy Hook. The unimaginable terrors of the innocent young and those who tried to protect them. I cried myself to sleep for weeks after Sandy Hook. I didn’t want to send my own elementary-aged children to school. I fought fear and distrust. I struggled to walk in faith in the midst and grip of paralyzing fear.

When Parkland happened, I wanted to take The Hidden Side back. Yes, it was a time-slip story, but it tackled the very real tragedy that is becoming all too pervasive in our culture. As I watched the news, I couldn’t ignore the fact that people were really living through this. What right did I have to insert myself into their stories, to pretend I knew what they were going through?

Worse, as I pondered the impending release and what seemed to be horrible timing on the part of such a story, I feared what people would think of me. Some would no doubt think I wrote to exploit a horrible situation, to bring good for myself (in the form of books sales) without regard for others. I became frantic, and yet it was too late. The contract was signed, ARC’s were off to trade reviewers, books were already on order.

I trust that those of you who know me know that this was the farthest thing from my mind as I wrote. In my fiction, I go to the places I tend to get tripped up. To terrorist attacks and school shootings, to tough decisions having to do with war, to struggles with family. I go here to work out my own struggles through my characters. I go here to remind myself of the big picture, to remind myself the importance of looking to Jesus and His sufficiency in a place where I feel nothing but weakness.

I’m incredibly grateful for my support network, including an agent and editor who convinced me that this book I’d written did have a place in the world. The fact of the matter is that this is a very real cultural problem our society is facing today. And stories, particularly inspirational stories, must have a voice in every corner of our world. Now, today.

Is this issue about guns? Is it about raising entitled children? Is it about mental health, bullying, social media, the pharmaceutical industry? In many ways, it is about all these things. And while I attempted to stay true to the story and not take sides on any one issue, I’m aware that as readers, we all come from different perspectives and backgrounds. That’s okay. Story is a perfect place for us to meet.

As I ponder the recent shooting in Texas and view the pictures of the precious lost, my heart feels that heavy pull of sadness once again, but this time, as I pray for those involved, I don’t want to take this story back. Instead, I want it to be read. I want it to be discussed. It may tear your heart apart, but I while I can’t claim it will give any answers, I do pray it gives hope.

Story is powerful. I believe it can help us see in ways a news story cannot. As we seek out wise solutions in faith, I pray that those who have a voice in fiction will be part of the answer. I pray we may bring light to a hurting world. 

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