Welcome to Monday at the CCC Blog! Today we're delighted to have a guest blogger with us, Miss Tara Johnson! We hope you're blessed by this devo as much as we are . . .
Barney Fife. Scarlett O'Hara. Inigo Montoya. Huckleberry Finn.
Lecter. Atticus Finch. Sherlock Holmes. Elphaba. Luke Skywalker. All are great
characters with vibrant and memorable personalities. All are a complex mix of
flaws, quirks, dreams and failures.
I'm a people watcher. I love observing mannerisms, appearance and attitudes and pondering why people do the things they do. One of my favorite games is "What if?". What if the cashier at Walmart can't look customers in the eye because she's hiding a dark secret? What if the old lady you see shopping for coffee creamer is a criminal mastermind? What if the fellow playing checkers in front of the Cracker Barrel is actually an informant for the CIA?
It's not just fictional people and situations that intrigue me. History is crammed full of larger-than-life characters. Napoleon Bonaparte, Doc Holliday, Annie Oakley, Helen Keller, Daniel Boone, Queen Victoria, George Washington, Amelia Earhart and Frederick Douglass are just a few examples of flawed, wounded humans who battled their demons with vibrant determination and left an indelible mark on the pages of history. And all considered themselves the hero in their own story.
I suppose that's why people are so fascinating. No matter the era, we all battle the same wounds. Abandonment, abusive fathers, overprotective mothers, loss, grief, rejection, addiction, crippling anxiety, loneliness, or the yearning for unconditional love, to name a few. We all battle the same junk and have to decide whether to fight or cave. Run or stand. Cry or smile.
People have often asked me where I get my characters and how I breathe my stories to life. For me, it all begins with the wound.
Let me explain.
Not long ago, my three year old son fell on the driveway and scraped his hand. At the sound of his wailing, his sisters and I ran to his side. When the girls tried to convince him to let them see, he covered the scrape with his chubby fingers and jerked away from them with a teary scowl. Why? Because he didn’t trust them with his boo-boo. He’d been victim of their teasing enough to wonder if they were trust worthy. Would they laugh at him for being melodramatic? Unintentionally make the hurt worse by poking and probing? No, letting them see was too risky.
What do we do with a wound? Usually we try to hide it.
But when I walked up and knelt down in front of him with sympathy, he finally uncovered his injured hand to let me examine the damage. He trusted me not to hurt him anymore than he’d already been wounded.
And here’s the thing…there was no way for me to give him the help he needed until I could understand how severe his injury was. Once he was brave enough to lift his chubby fingers away from his wound, I could begin to treat it. Because he trusted me, I was able to wash it, clean it with hydrogen peroxide, bandage it and kiss it until his tears subsided and he was playing once more.
We live as messy people in a broken world. We all have wounds. Some are bigger than others. Some cut deeper than others. Some of us have lived with the crippling shame of sexual, verbal or physical abuse. Some of us have been told we’re unwanted or unloved. Some of us can’t seem to shake depression or are mourning the loss of a loved one. Some of us have a childhood that we barely survived or an adulthood that has left us disillusioned and depressed. Some of us are victims of our own horrible mistakes.
And just like Nate covering his scraped palm, we cover our hurt, wrapping our fingers around the searing pain, keeping it concealed, restrained and locked away from prying eyes. We don’t want anyone to see, anyone to know. The pain is too deep, the vulnerability too precarious.
But here’s the thing…God can’t heal what we are unwilling to expose to him.
In my debut novel scheduled to release next year with Tyndale House (tentatively titled Engraved on the Heart), my characters have deep, real-deal wounds. The heroine, Kizzy Montgomery, is battling epilepsy in an era when it was grossly misunderstood. The 1860s were not known for their wide knowledge of medicine. Add to this an overbearing father and mother who are ashamed of her condition in the eyes of
polite society. All Kizzie has ever wanted is two things and both have been
denied to her: 1) unconditional love and 2) to do something that matters. When
her childhood friend unwittingly involves her in the Underground Railroad, she
has a major choice to make. Does she defy her family's allegiance to the
Confederacy in order to help the hurting or turn her back on the suffering to
win her family's approval?
Boom. Instant conflict. And although most of us have never had to deal with smuggling people to freedom, all of us can relate to feeling like we'll never measure up. Rejection. The lie that screams, "I'm worthless."
That's what great characters do. They are a reflection of our struggles, our own wounds. Our own need. And, when written well, they remind us Who we need to turn to for healing.
When we are brave enough to come to Jesus with all of our shame and broken pieces, His light and love can start to heal those jagged cuts. He is the Father who lovingly cleans the wound and kisses the sting away.
I tend to think there are a bit of Jack Sparrows, Rhett Butlers and Anne Shirleys in all of us, if we're willing to look hard enough.
How about you? Any character you resonate with, or any struggles/wounds we can pray for you about??
Tara Johnson is an author, speaker and singer from Alexander, AR. A passionate lover of stories, she loves to travel to churches, ladies retreats and prisons to share how God led her into freedom after spending years living shackled as a people-pleasing preacher's kid, and a steep battle with depression and perfectionism.
Her first nonfiction book Hollow Victory: How to Identify and Disarm 5 Landmines that Make Victorious Christian Living Feel Like a Lie was released in 2014. She has won the Bronze Medal in the Frazier awards hosted by My Book Therapy and has articles published in Plain Truth Magazine and Live It Loud Magazine and has been a featured guest on Voice of Truth radio and Enduring Word radio. Tara is a member of ACFW and is represented by Janet Grant of Books & Such Literary Agency. She and her husband Todd have been married for nineteen years and the Lord has blessed them with five children: Bethany, Callie, Nate, as well as Taylor Lynn and Morgan Lane who are with Jesus.
You can buy her nonfiction book, Hollow Victory here... https://www.amazon.com/Hollow-Victory-Landmines-Victorious-Christian/dp/1484100131/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1487338982&sr=8-2&keywords=hollow+victory+tara+johnson