Away on a week’s holiday with the family at the snow fields recently I was reminded that no matter how well we make plans and anticipate our needs, there is always going to be problems and things that don’t go quite right; injuries, bad weather, lost or forgotten items, things in the rental accommodation that don’t work perfectly, tensions between family members after a long, tiring day on the snow. There were at least a couple of chapters in our holiday that I’d have liked to re-write. But the reality is, even though we had a lovely time and have treasured memories, I’m aware, once more, that there is something wrong with everything on earth. Perfection is fleeting if we see it at all.
I am now preparing for a module I’ll soon be teaching on Understanding and Working with Grief and Trauma, for our Theological students and Chaplains. Again I’m confronted with, and must confront the students with, the reality that there is much suffering on this earth. So many tragedies, accidents, losses, abuses, with which people must deal and find a way towards healing from. Many times as helpers we feel inadequate to bring comfort or overwhelmed by the magnitude of people's pain. In my counselling, I’m constantly listening to sad stories, of multiple losses, of relationships once romances which are now shattered, of seemingly insurmountable problems, of tragedies that leave life-long scars and grief. We can hardly watch the news each day without being confronted with these realities.
I don't mean to be morbid here, or to suggest that hope and healing are not also part of our lives here on earth. As Christians we have the amazing power and love of God to draw on, for ourselves and others. However, I can’t help but reflect on how necessary and wonderful it is for people to be able to escape into unreality, or fiction, sometimes. No wonder stories of romance and victories and great achievement and happy endings are so popular and prolific. I learned very early in my writing that my stories, no matter how many ups and downs, problems and tragedies they contain, must have a happy ending. No-one wants to read a story that ends in grief and pain, or with unanswered questions, or unsolved crimes, or broken relationships.
And I guess none of us want to write such endings either, as writing can be as much an escape from reality as reading. Perhaps it’s an indication that we are all in some way trying to find our way back to the Garden of Eden, or anticipating the peaceful, safe and loving gardens of heaven. We need to go to perfect, romantic, whole places in our imagination sometimes, in order to deal with the reality of the fallen world and imperfect lives we must live on this earth. Thank God we can have the certain hope of perfection in eternity when we are God’s children. We have a perfectly happy ending to look forward to. And thankfully that is no fiction.
However for the here and now, I am grateful to those who write such beautiful fictional stories into which we can escape for a time. And I’m thankful that I can write a story, though based on reality, in which I can steer my characters towards happy endings, where I can unearth the stumbling blocks to solving problems and draw together the resources a character needs to move through grief and trauma to victory and peace and love. Our stories are a wonderful and necessary survival tool, medicine for those in pain, therapy for the suffering. Let’s keep them coming.
Carol writes historical novels based on her family ancestry in Australia from the First Fleet. They include the Turning the Tide series; Mary’s Guardian, Charlotte’s Angel, Tangled Secrets and Truly Free. Two of her earlier novels, Suzannah’s Gold and Rebecca’s Dream, were re-released by EBP. Next of Kin was released last year by Rhiza Press and the sequel, Beyond the Fight, was released this April. You can see more about Carol and her novels on her website, her Amazon author page or FB author page.