By Megan Sayer
When I was a little kid, back in the early 80s, I really liked Cliff Richard. I liked him because Cliff Richard was cool, because he sang cool songs about Walkmans and roller skating and stuff, but also because he came on the telly sometimes after Young Talent Time and sang songs about being a Christian. I liked that because I was a Christian, and I knew that being a Christian meant going to the Salvation Army Church and singing “Onward Christian Soldiers” and waving your hanky at the hanky song. I liked that because nobody else I knew went to church or waved their hankies at the hanky song, so Cliff Richard being on the telly made me feel like being a Christian was cool, like it was something normal, regular people did.
That was a very long time ago. Fast forward to the tumultuous 1990's when I had my own radical salvation experience, when I left the Anglican church – some years had passed since we’d left the Salvos – and joined up with a group of wildly evangelical Pentecostals intent on saving our city for Jesus. Then fast forward through to the 2000's, when I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was burning with one vision: to write books for Jesus, the way that Cliff Richard had sung songs for Jesus way back when Young Talent Time was still cool.
Only trouble was…I wasn’t much of a fan of Christian books.
Now I don’t want to upset anyone here, and forgive me if I’m treading on toes, but I’m still not. The problem is, I think, I’m not romantic. I’ve never seen “The Notebook”, and I didn’t bawl all the way through Titanic. I’m happy for those that do, it’s just…I guess it’s like wearing kilts. I’m from good Scottish stock. I cry at Scotland the Brave, and pretty much anything played on the bagpipes. Do I want to dress my sons in kilts? No.
So anyway, fast forward again to the current decade, where there’s me and the eleven Christian books on my bookshelf (Adrian Plass and Frank Peretti in case you were wondering), and about a hundred books on writing, and a few hundred more books of stories that inspire me, Toni Morrison, Tim Winton, Ian McEwan, Jonathan Safran-Foer, F. Scott Fitzgerald and the like, and a near-complete first novel bursting at the seams of my laptop, when I have the slow and difficult revelation that I’ve mined out the depth of longing and worship and pain and redemption from my deepest heart into this manuscript, and it brims with love for Jesus but…but…but it’s not a “Christian novel”. It has swearing…and sex.
This is…ermmm…slightly a problem. I’m fairly convinced that mainstream publishers don’t exactly want novels that brim over with passion and love for Jesus, either.
It’s taken me a while to know what to do with that. I didn’t write the novel for Christians, I wrote it for broken people – not in a fervent, evangelical, you-need-to-know-that-Jesus-can-heal-you way, but because I’d been taught by a hundred craft books to write what I knew, and what I knew was that I was broken, and that Jesus healed me. And I wrote about little kid, Cliff-Richard-loving On-the-Telly faith, and what happens when that faith gets tested. And then MY faith got tested, because the book I’d wanted to write as an act of worship to the God that I love was gradually becoming something else…a book about let-down faith with no clear Jesus-redemption, a book about letting go of childish dreams and pushing out into the boat to seek an unknown future.
Is this okay? What do I think of this? And, more’s the point, what does Evangelical, Cliff-Richard-on-the-telly-loving Jesus think of this?
Heck, what would Cliff Richard think?!
Until a week or so ago I didn’t know.
I read a post that challenged me yet again, The Writer’s Alley: http://www.thewritersalleyblog.com/2015/02/blurred-lines-lets-talk-about-sex.html, and the author posed the following thought: could she stand before Jesus proudly with her book? If that was a no, then she knew she’d crossed the line.
And that’s when I understood. I’ve not ended up with the book I thought I was creating, not even close. I’ve ended up being changed by this book in more ways than I can say, and it feels very much like God has directed my feet in all of it. Even the sex scenes.
Hello everyone. My name is Megan Sayer, and I may not be a “Christian writer”, but I would gladly sit at the feet of my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ who walked me through my own difficult times, my own pain and redemption, and read him every word of this novel I believe He has guided me to write.
Yes, Even the rude words and the sex scenes.