Story Sunday #8: Love Never Forces

Story Sunday salutations!

The Details on This Week’s Writing

Number of words written: 2,173 words. And yes, next week I’m once again trying for 10k! We don’t give up around here.

What I did: This week, I worked on a short story – Biblical fiction, of course! I’ll be posting it here on the blog once I’m finished, so stay tuned for that. It should come sometime this week or next week.

I decided I needed to take a fast from The Apostle’s Sister and The Anointed this week and probably some or all of next, and instead of writing, to spend more time in meditation with God. Through prayer, I’ve learned that God is taking my St. Paul Biblical fiction in another direction than what I thought. I’m trusting his plans and listening to his voice, because he knows what’s best. This week I have experienced more clarity on my novels than ever before. I know that for a while now I’ve been pretty vague about all this and what’s going on, and I apologize. I’m not quite ready to share it yet because I want to figure things out with God before sharing. But clarity is coming, so I promise that soon I’ll write a post explaining everything that’s going on in my writing and in my life.

In the meantime, I’m really enjoying working on my short story! It’s about one of my favorite Bible figures – King Hezekiah of Judah. In the last installment of my “Five Reasons to Love…” series, I listed five reasons to love King Hezekiah. You can read that post here if you haven’t seen it yet.

As aforementioned, I will be posting this short story on the blog soon. So again, stay tuned!

Highlights: I’ll tell you guys a bit about my King Hezekiah short story and what I’ve been enjoying most about it!

As I mentioned in my list of reasons to love Hezekiah, one of the things I love most about him is how he turned away from the evil ways of his father Ahaz. In regards to the stark contrast of Hezekiah’s godly character with Ahaz’s satanical character, I wrote:

Hezekiah’s father was this greedy, Satan-possessed man. But Hezekiah chose not to become like him. He chose to give his life to God, his true Father, and devote himself to God, as God’s true son. He condemned what his father had done, and he led Judah with compassionate authority. This is a wonderful example to all of us that we never have to follow the example of evildoers, even if those evildoers are our parents. 

I’ve always wondered what led Hezekiah to be the direct opposite of his father and choose good instead of evil. The father is one of the most significant people in a child’s life, and so the child takes cues from the father. It takes something huge, something miraculous, for a child to move away from the actions of his father. It is no wonder Jesus called the wicked Jewish leaders sons of their father the devil, saying: “Your will is to do your father’s desires” (John 8:44). He also said that if the Jews were truly sons of Abraham, they would do what is right, as Abraham did (John 8:39).

For a child to move away from the actions of his father, he must have an influencer more powerful than his father who leads him in the right way. Someone who will love him and teach him righteousness. In my short story about Hezekiah, I focus on the influence who loved the little prince and taught him to reject Ahaz’s cruelties. I shall leave it at that – y’all will have to find out what happens when you read the story!

And as also mentioned in my list of reasons to love Hezekiah, the Bible does not tell us how he escaped Ahaz’s murderous hand. Ahaz sacrificed Hezekiah’s siblings in fire to the pagan god Molech, but Hezekiah somehow survived as heir to Judah’s throne. I have always wanted to know why Hezekiah was not sacrificed as his brothers were. In my short story, I speculate as to how he escaped being sacrificed at the hands of his father. Again, I shall leave it at that. I want y’all to find out when you read the story soon!

Thoughts/experiences: This week, I had a very interesting conversation with a friend. The conversation proved enlightening and encouraging to me as a writer, especially during this time when I’m not sure what God would have me do next with my St. Paul Biblical fiction. I’ll tell you guys about this experience.

My friend and I were talking about Acts 23:16, and she said she used to read that verse and the following passage about Paul’s heroic nephew with no thought at all. But now she finds herself with so many questions. “It would be so interesting to know!” she told me. “Did Paul and his sister have a good relationship? What did she think about his conversion from Pharisee to Christian? That would have been a horrible thing then. I’m sure she was raised to think Pharisees were really good people, since Paul said his father was one too. I’m sure she hated Christians just like he once did, since everyone hated Christians. Did she love her brother or think he was crazy?”

My friend’s questions were music to my ears. She doesn’t know it, but this week she was an answer to my many confused, troubled prayers to God over the future of The Apostle’s Sister. She made me realize that the world needs to hear the story of Paul’s sister, and I’m the only one who can write this story. So I need to keep pressing on, because God does have good plans and will help me to succeed.

My friend also told me that the thing she loves most about Paul is his great reverence and respect for women, as evidenced in passages such as Romans 16. And one thing she said really struck me. I’ll always remember it. She said: “People don’t realize that each time Paul commended a woman – and that was all the time – he was risking his life.”

I couldn’t believe I myself had never realized that before. And oh, it couldn’t be truer.

During Paul’s time, men were male chauvinists and misogynists. (And many men still are, which is why we need more men who follow Paul’s godly example.) They said the only thing a woman was good for was (1) to satisfy a man’s sexual desires; and (2) to bear him sons. They oppressed women, telling them to be quiet and that they were not worthy to be heard. They were superior to women, and women were at their mercy. A man could do anything he wanted to a woman, and he would never be penalized. He could violate her, manipulate her, take advantage of her in horrible ways, and guess what? Nobody cared.

People don’t realize that each time Paul commended a woman – and that was all the time – he was risking his life.

This is what 99% of men were like during Paul’s time. So to see another man – namely Paul – giving respect, reverence, and honor to women… that would have infuriated them. It would have infuriated them enough that they vowed to make Paul pay for rejecting misogyny. And it wasn’t just a swift temper with them. Paul’s respect for women made these men hate him so much they wanted to make him suffer all they could. They wanted to see him tortured, imprisoned, and killed. My friend’s words gave me a whole new perspective. Paul’s respect for women may have very likely been the reason for at least one of these experiences. In light of this, I’m even more amazed that there are actually people, including Christians, who accuse the apostle of endorsing misogyny and being the “eternal enemy of women.”

Paul honored women, and we should too. If he saw women as so important that he would risk his life and sacrifice his own flesh to honor them, imagine how he would have loved his sister. He loved women, and he would not have loved his own sister less. In fact, he counsels Timothy to treat older women as mothers and younger women as sisters (1 Timothy 5:2).

This conversation convinced me even more that Paul would have loved his sister. That was my purpose in writing TAS in the first place – to show that his love would have never excluded her. I’m encouraged to keep on going with this story. I’m determined to keep on trusting God with it.

Today’s diary entry: On Story Sunday Survey #7, the majority voted for a diary entry from Seth on a humorous moment he’s shared with his parents. I must admit I struggled with this one for a while! The Apostle’s Sister is such a serious novel that there’s little to no humor, and that can get kind of exhausting, but it’s somewhat difficult to find humor in the kind of themes, plots, and characters that TAS explores. I talked a bit about this back in Story Sunday #5. I really think I need to include more humor in my story, although it may be serious.

Anyways, I struggled to think of a humorous scenario with Paul, Temira, and Seth. Paul and Temira are always so serious (which is understandable), and Seth is really quite a pensive kid despite his moments of mischief. Also understandable, but I know I love humor in serious books. It really releases tension. So I want to practice doing the same thing.

After some pondering, I decided a good way to write something humorous would be to involve a pet. For those of you who didn’t know, I am definitely an animal-lover. And more specifically, I love cats, but I’m a “dog person” by far.

So I wrote a scenario where Seth finds a hungry dog and presents him to Paul and Temira, and the exchange is hilarious! (I think it is, and I hope y’all do too.) Temira is properly horrified – as Seth notes, she’s not too keen on anything dirty. Seth does the dreaded task we’ve all done as kids – attempting to convince our parents, and noting which parent is more likely to say yes. Paul is just amused throughout the whole thing.

I love the dynamics with all three in this diary entry. Paul aggravates Temira with a bit of older-brotherly teasing, which I love. As someone who has an older brother herself, I know they thrive on teasing their little sisters. Temira’s sisterly disapproval is so funny and so realistic – something I also know from experience! Seth’s back-and-forth with his mother is hilarious as well, and I love how Paul is the “chill” parent in this case. For the majority of the novel, Paul’s parenting style is relatively stern, quite authoritative. Temira is a protective mother, but she is usually a bit more “chill” than Paul.

I’m actually really happy with how the humor turned out. This diary entry does end on a serious note, but I love that as well. It was good practice for me, to keep the serious tone of the novel (it’s certainly not a “light” read or a comedic read) while still releasing some tension with humor.

I think so far, this is the diary entry I most enjoyed writing. It was just such a fun and different challenge to write! While writing, I got to see, for the first time, a different side of my characters that I just completely fell in love with. I really hope you guys see that, too!

I believe this diary entry is also the longest, coming to 1,407 words. I’m really sorry I’ve inflicted such a long one on you guys; I thought it would actually be quite short, but it grew and grew as I wrote. I hope you enjoy it and don’t mind how long it is!

Make sure to let me know how I did with the comedy. Did it feel forced or natural? Did it feel like another side of my characters, or like I was trying to assign attributes to them that didn’t fit them? I would love the input!

Now let’s dive right into this diary entry!

Yesterday I rescued a dog when I went out to the woods to explore.

I had no idea what my parents would say when I showed up with him. Well, I knew what Uncle Paul would probably say, but wasn’t certain how Mama would react. She isn’t too keen on anything dirty, and calling this dog dirty would be too kind. I hoped she wouldn’t object too strongly to him, though. I thought him a beautiful dog, even if he was rather large. And somewhat – all right, maybe more than somewhat – smelly. And dirty, as aforesaid. But his poor belly was thin from lack of food, and he followed me with perfect obedience.

I found my parents indoors with scrolls spread out on the table. Since my uncle’s eyes are failing, he’s finding it harder even to read to me in the evenings, and sometimes Mama does his reading for him. He taught her a long time ago. Whatever they were studying, they seemed intent, and I was suddenly hesitant to get their attention and attempt to explain to them.

The dog ended up doing it for me, raising his head and announcing our presence with a loud bark. Mama jumped, caught the dog’s eye, and her face turned white. She stared in shock.

The dog stared steadily back at her, opening his mouth and cocking his head to the side in imitation of her. I had to laugh.

Mama found her voice then and shrieked, stepping behind Uncle Paul as if for protection. “What is that, Seth?” she gasped through her hands.

“It’s a dog,” I explained, a little confused. “Can’t you see that?”

She crossed her arms and gave me that look. The one that lets me know trouble is probably ahead. “Don’t talk to me like that, young man. You know I can see that.”

“Then why did you ask?” I said, further confused.

My uncle laughed, then promptly covered his mistake with a cough when Mama shifted her look in his direction.

“Filthy thing,” said my mother, though she appeared more scared than angry. “I have told you not to bring in every wild thing you find outside.”

“But he’s hungry, Mama,” I protested. “See how thin he is. Can’t I keep him?”

“Keep him!” she exclaimed. “You just ask your uncle and see what he says.”

I looked at Uncle Paul in time to see him duck his head to hide a smile. Clearly he thought the entire situation was funny. I concluded it would be safe to ask him, since he seemed to be on my side. Usually he doesn’t say yes to many things, but I had a feeling he would this time. “Can I keep him, Uncle Paul?”

He rubbed his beard for a moment, pretending to think, then said, “Well, I suppose so.”

“Paul!” my mother cried.

Undaunted, he winked at me. “Sisters are contrary creatures, Seth. You might have learned that already. And they’re timid. You don’t have to touch the dog, Temira.”

“Thank you, Uncle Paul!” I shouted, flinging myself into his arms. The dog licked his hand in appreciation.

Mama shook her head. “You can be certain I won’t touch him. And I declare you are the contrary one. At least you take that dog outside and wash him. I can’t even see his coat for all that mud. Take him outside now, and I suppose I’ll have to find him something to eat.”

“Thank you, Mama,” I said, reflecting I could handle her minimal tolerance. In any case, she had to do what her brother told her to do.

By the time she appeared with bread for the dog, we had him mostly washed. His coat was the color of copper. Mama surveyed him with a less critical eye.

“He’s not as bad-looking as I thought,” she said, “but he’s still a wild animal. I don’t want him indoors, hear me?”

I nodded, watching her drop the bread onto the ground. The dog sniffed and devoured it, then trotted to her and buried his head in her skirt. She gasped, but when Uncle Paul laughed at her, she glared at him and contrived courage to pat the dog on the head. She even smiled.

“He still stays out here,” she clarified as she turned away.

At sunrise the next morning, he was the first thing I thought of. I sprang outside to give him breakfast, which my mother again supplied. But he was nowhere to be found. I called to him and looked for him everywhere, but he didn’t appear.

Mama came outside, and by the look on her face I knew she was about to scold me for taking so long. Then her expression changed when she realized the dog was gone. Her face softened, but her words didn’t help anything.

“I hope you won’t be too hurt over this,” she said. “I’m sorry, ahava, but the dog has left for good. I knew he wouldn’t stay around long.”

A lump came into my throat and my voice was choked, though I fought it. “He has to be somewhere,” I insisted. “He has to be.”

I felt Uncle Paul’s arms around me, and I buried my face in his shoulder.

Mama, beside us, said gently, “I’ve told you dogs are wild animals. They go to people for food, and then they leave. They’re meant to be free.”

I could tell she was trying to make me feel better, but she was actually making me feel worse.

“Sister,” Uncle Paul said, and I knew he understood. She understood, then, too, and disappeared.

“I miss him, Uncle Paul,” I admitted, trying not to cry.

“I know.” He picked me up and held me, then carried me to the step and sat me on his lap. Usually I think seven years old is too old for that kind of thing, but just then I didn’t mind it. He didn’t say anything for a while – he understands when I don’t feel like listening – then he set me at arm’s length so I would face him. “I have to explain something to you, son, and I hope someday you’ll understand it.”

I nodded.

“Your mother was right,” he said. “She and I both knew right away that the dog wouldn’t stay around for long. She cast that up to me last night after you’d gone to bed – that was the real reason she was upset that I let you keep him. Your mother just didn’t want you to be hurt.”

“So why did you let me keep him?” I couldn’t help feeling suddenly upset at him for that.

“I wanted you to learn something, and I thought it was worthwhile even at the cost of your being hurt for a while. You brought the dog in the first place because you saw he needed your help. You were compassionate; you did help him, and I want you to know I’m proud of you for that. But son, I wanted you to see that it doesn’t matter how much you love something or someone; you can’t force it to stay.”

“But if I love it enough, won’t it want to stay?” I pleaded.

“No, Seth, no.” I thought Uncle Paul looked sad, and my resentment for him diminished. “You’ll understand this better as you get older, but you know how I am frequently rejected in the places I minister. I’ve always taught you about Christ, but you must know that there are those who don’t want him, even though he loves them. As you love that dog.”

“I don’t know why they don’t want to hear you,” I said. “Don’t they know you’re just trying to save them?”

“I love them,” Uncle Paul said. “I love the people. But I can’t force them to listen, or that would not be love. The Lord doesn’t force them, so neither must I. Just as I love you, Seth, and as your mother loves you. We never force you to do anything.”

I thought about that and nodded in agreement.

“We have to learn to let go, even though it hurts.” With that he stood, and I took his hand.

“But you’ll never leave me, will you?” I begged, feeling a kind of chill inside me.

He smiled at me, but his eyes didn’t smile. “I will always be with you, one way or another.”

I tried to be satisfied with that.

I hope you guys enjoyed this week’s diary entry! You can complete Story Sunday Survey #8 here.


Discussion Question: What do you think Paul meant when he said, “I will always be with you, one way or another”?


You know the drill – eat, pray, write, repeat!

JC

6 thoughts on “Story Sunday #8: Love Never Forces

Add yours

  1. Loved this entry! And keep preserving girl! I got your back if you ever need some motivation! And I can’t wait to read your short story!
    Oh that’s a tough one to answer, but I think Paul meant that he knows being a Christian isn’t going to take him to the best place in the future, so Paul might now always be physically with Seth, but he will always be in spirit.

    Like

    1. Aw, thank you, Trixie! You don’t know how much I appreciate the support. Yay, I’m so glad you want to read it!
      I think you’re right on point. Paul knows his apostleship is always going to be putting his life on the brink, and that’s why he can’t honestly promise Seth he’ll always be there physically. But always in spirit – amen!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Oooh, that short story about Hezekiah sounds so COOL!!!!!!!!!!!!😃 I can’t wait to read it!!!!!!!
    And this diary entry was INCREDIBLE!!!!!!!!!!!😀 I loved it and I loved the humor in it too!!!!! You did a great job!!!!!😀💗 Oh, and I really love the parallelism between Seth and the dog and God and people!!!!!!! That was amazing!!!!!!!!<33 So for the Discussion Question, I agree with Trixie that I think Paul meant that he would always be with Seth in spirit.

    Like

    1. Thank you for your enthusiasm all across the board, Kat!
      I’m glad you liked the humor part – I don’t put much humor with these characters so it was a new experience. Something I thought about also in regards to the parallelism was how dogs actually weren’t viewed positively in Jewish culture. The writers of the Bible – including Paul himself – typically compare dogs with wicked people. So it actually is very much a parallel of how God loves us even though we’re not perfect and we run from him.
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

      Like

  3. JOY, I LOOOOOVED THIS!!!!!! The humor in it was AWESOME and didn’t sound forced at all!!! I love the lesson that Paul taught Seth at the end and how you used the dog example to tie that all together. Honestly, it might be my favorite Story Sunday yet! XD
    Ahhh, yes, for the Discussion Question I definitely think that Paul meant he would always be with Seth spiritually even when he dies.
    Also, I can’t wait for the Hezekiah story!!! That sounds SOOO cool and I’m super excited to see your take on how he escaped being sacrificed! Thank you so much for sharing!!

    Like

    1. Wow, your favorite Story Sunday! It was the most fun for me to write so far, because it started off in such a different tone. I don’t write too much humor into my stories.
      I think mostly everyone agrees with that take on the Discussion Question. It definitely makes a lot of sense.
      I’m glad you’re looking forward to the story! It may take much longer than I originally thought, but it will be up sometime. Thank YOU for commenting!

      Like

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