Stories that Matter

Into Dark Places…

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These past few years, since being published really, I’ve tried to figure out who I am as an author. Who I want to be, where I want to go, and the kind of books I want to write. When I first began writing, a little over a hundred years ago, it was purely for my own entertainment. I loved creating characters and watching what they did with their lives. I never imagined that one day I might actually do this for real. Like a serious job kind of thing. Well, it’s serious now. Getting realer by the second. And slowly, with each new story I write, I’m finding my way.

While I have shared before on writing real, not shying away from the hard topics, I’m not sure I really understood that this was not just my own preference, but a calling. A high calling indeed. One I’m only now starting to see take shape and evolve with each word I write.

If you’re a Downton Abbey fan, you may have your own opinion on last week’s episode. I’ve heard everything from shock, horror and disappointment in the plot twist to applause for addressing a taboo subject. I won’t go into details for those who haven’t yet seen it and others who don’t care. But this week, as a new story of my own emerged, I think I fall on the side of those who are clapping.

I’m going into dark places. Not because I want to. But because I believe I am called to. I am called to write for those who can’t. Perhaps in some way my words might reach the ones who need to hear them. This is stepping out on faith, because I don’t know what comes next. But I do know that if I want to share light, I must step into darkness. There are others there. Hiding. Afraid. Others who may have tried to tell their stories but their voices have been ignored, snubbed, their lives judged. I may not have experienced the things they have, but I can go there with them. I can imagine what it might be like to lose a child. To lose a spouse to another. To see your worst fears realized. To be judged by those who are supposed to love. I can imagine, and I can pray with all my might I never have to live it. But I believe these stories need to be told. There is hope for the hurting. A balm for the wounded soul who no longer wants to live because it is just too damn hard.

Hope. Light in darkness. This is what I want to share. This is the business I want to be about. And maybe it won’t be easy. Maybe I’ll wonder if I’ve misread the directions somehow and, maybe, I’ll want to give up. I hope I don’t. Because I know if I’m ever in those dark places, I’d want to see a little light in the shadows.

I’d like to share a snippet of something new with you today, to show you where I’m going. And I hope you’ll come along for the ride.

Excerpt from my latest WIP, Winter’s Edge.

“Can we not do this?”

I don’t have an answer for that. The exhaustion he wears like a second skin tells me he’s had enough. Enough of me. Entering this house is like entering a warzone and he’s tired of dodging bullets. I’m tired of firing them, but I can’t come up with another line of defense. And I still have plenty of ammunition left.

“I guess it’s getting old, huh?” I twist the rings on my left hand and wonder why I still wear them. Maybe I should slide them off now, throw them at him…wave the white flag in final surrender. Somehow I think that’s exactly what he wants. So I refuse.

He’s composed himself again, but he wraps a hand around my wrist. “Please call me or email me when you get there. Okay?”

Tears trickle out despite my best efforts to force them back. I don’t want to call him. I don’t want to email him. I don’t want to think he still cares. I don’t want him to care. Knowing that he might makes it even more difficult to let him go.

For a moment we’re standing graveside again under a darkening sky as huge drops start to splatter the ground and hit the gleaming flower-covered casket.

Tonight I am grieving another kind of death.

The death of a marriage.

A marriage that was supposed to survive.

“I don’t know how to do this.” The admission chokes me, pushes out a sob and I fold my arms against it, ball my fists at my ribcage and hate myself for not being strong enough. And then he puts that damn box on the floor, moves into my space, wraps his arms around me and he’s holding me. Tight. And he’s crying too.

Oh, God, is there forgiveness here? Can I stand back now and look him in the eye and tell him I forgive him? Would he even want me to if I could?

Kevin releases me in a shuddering sigh. Rests a hand against my wet cheek and simply shakes his head. His forehead furrows. While I am no longer privy to my husband’s intimate thoughts, I wonder if he too cannot believe it has all come down to this one final, catastrophic moment.

“I’m sorry, Savannah,” he breathes out.

He’s said this before, too many times. He has apologized, but he has never once asked for my forgiveness. He once told me he doesn’t deserve it.

I don’t believe that, not really. But I am not God. I don’t know how to forgive this sin, this appalling act of complete abandonment.

And I don’t want to forgive him, even though I know I should.

 © 2014 Catherine West, Winter’s Edge

Photo © 2014 Sarah Elgersma, Sarah E Photography

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17 Comments

  1. Jennifer Zarifeh Major on January 18, 2014 at 1:06 pm

    Love this, Cathy. SO raw, so real. I wanted to keep reading!!

    • Cathy West on January 18, 2014 at 2:27 pm

      LOL! Yeah. So do I. Unfortunately I only have two pages after that one…so far…
      But consider yourself hugged for saying you want more! 🙂

  2. Kiersti on January 18, 2014 at 2:11 pm

    This is powerful, Cathy–both your post and the beautiful excerpt from your book. Thank you for being willing to go into the dark places…Jesus was and is, after all. What was it Corrie ten Boom said…something about how she and her sister learned it was in darkness that God’s truth shines most clear? Blessings to you!

    • Cathy West on January 18, 2014 at 2:26 pm

      Hi Kiersti,
      Thanks for stopping by and reading. I’m glad my words resonated with you today. 🙂

  3. Susan Mason on January 18, 2014 at 2:57 pm

    Wow! I want that story now! And I don’t even like first person! Seriously, awesome writing, Cathy! A calling to be sure!

    • Cathy West on January 18, 2014 at 3:30 pm

      LOL, Susan! The funny thing is, I don’t like first person either. Never in a million years did I think I’d be writing a book in first. You can ask my critique partners, they’ll vouch for that! But when something like this happens, you just have to run with it. I hope it doesn’t take too long! 🙂

  4. Lisa Jordan on January 18, 2014 at 3:26 pm

    Your writing steals my breath. You write with an emotional depth that sears the heart. Finish this book! 🙂

    • Cathy West on January 18, 2014 at 3:31 pm

      Can I save that for an endorsement?? LOL! Thank you, Lisa, soooo much. I really hope I can do this storyline justice.

  5. Karen Barnett on January 18, 2014 at 3:48 pm

    “But I do know that if I want to share light, I must step into darkness.” This sentence hit me like a load of bricks, Cathy! I had a fascinating discussion with some friends the other day about the weaknesses in Christian fiction, and this unwillingness to delve into the darkness was one of our conclusions. Are Christian authors/publishers living in a safe little bubble and not addressing the true hurts of the world? Do our readers want this? Or do they prefer the safe, happy escape? I’m not sure of the answers, but I’m glad people are asking the questions.

    • Cathy West on January 18, 2014 at 5:51 pm

      Karen, I think people want both and I think there is room in the market for both. There is definitely a need for light uplifting stories, as well as those stories that go deeper and delve into the dark places many people might wish to avoid. Times are changing, but how fast and how much is yet to be determined. I think the only thing we as authors can do is follow our hearts and go where God leads.

  6. Judy Gann on January 18, 2014 at 4:08 pm

    Cathy, powerful blog post. I promise to pray you through the writing of this novel. My novel, in a smaller way, is written from a dark place in my life. I have the following quote from the afterward of Lauraine Snelling’s The Reunion taped above my computer:

    “When writers call on some deeply emotional part of their lives to use in a novel, it hurts. And no one wants to deliberately cause themselves pain. But thanks to faithful friends who prayed for me, an editor who kept pushing for my best and encouraged me to dig deep and work through my characters, and the perseverance taught to me by my mother’s and father’s examples, Reunion is now for you.” Lauraine Snelling

    Praying for you Cathy.
    Blessings, Judy

    • Cathy West on January 18, 2014 at 5:52 pm

      Hi Judy, thanks for reading! This book is not based on real life experience, thank goodness, but I do have friends who have gone through divorce and I know how painful it is. Love that quote from Lauraine.

  7. Sue Harrison on January 18, 2014 at 7:07 pm

    Your writing just gets stronger and stronger, Cathy. This is so good. Hang on tight and ride it into the tough slogging-through-mud writing days. I think God has something important for you to say in this story.

    • Cathy West on January 18, 2014 at 10:39 pm

      Thanks so much, Sue. Your continued encouragement means more than I can say. 🙂

  8. Holly Michael on January 21, 2014 at 3:31 pm

    You really are a talented writer who does great writing emotions. Great stuff, Cathy

  9. Denise Morgan on February 1, 2014 at 2:11 am

    We all have our personal dark places
    Nowhere that any of us want to be.
    And yet, they are there.

    You have a wonderful gift of writing.
    Please, do us all a favor and KEEP ON WRITING!
    In spite of the darkness.
    In spite of the demons of the past.

    Your writing brings our darkness and our demons to light.
    They are exposed.
    They are dealt with.
    They are overcome.

    And,why? Because God is God,
    They are overcome.
    They are defeated.
    Why?
    Because God is in control
    Of EVERY THING.

    And you remind us of that fact.

    Thank you.

    For your writing.

    For your faith in God.

    The God that never fails.

    Keep writing

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