I sat in the studio, my stomach nervous. I’d never read one of my books for an audio version before, which was one reason for my queasiness. But the main reason resided firmly on page 36 of Thin Places.
Jimmy, the producer, asked me at the beginning of the recording. “What are you going to do about that word?”
I’m not normally a swearer. Typically the only time I hurl an expletive is if I drop something on my foot, but even then, I don’t say that word. It’s too ugly. “Can I say something else that starts with F?”
“Of course. Just say it strong when you do.”
So we started our two-day recording journey. And I thought about that awful word, about how it would sound if I said it out loud. I knew they’d bleep it out anyway, so I felt confident I wouldn’t have to say it.
But something happened as I read my story. I was five years old again. Remembering the landscape of my kindergarten year. Feeling the fear I had inside, how it boiled and churned. Nearly every day teenage boys would take me from my babysitter’s house and do that unthinkable, unmentionable word to me. I couldn’t tell the babysitter because I knew if I did, she’d wash my mouth out with soap. The only word I knew to use to tell her exactly what was happening was that awful, stark word.
I let the abuse continue, afraid to say the word. Knowing that if I said it out loud, I would be in trouble. But the abuse escalated. The boys brought friends. And no one would rescue me, so I mustered up my courage, asked my babysitter to stoop to hear me, then whispered the word in her ear.
In the studio, a holy anger burst through me the moment the word came near. I saw it there, remembering my own fear of saying it. And when I found my voice, I let the word leave my tongue. Bare naked. In its awful glory.
Jimmy looked up at me, stunned, then gave me a thumbs up. Somehow he knew how hard it was to say that word, and I think he understood that saying it brought healing to me.
Because sometimes there is no other word to describe hell.
The word got bleeped, but I got healed.
Which goes to show that as storytellers (whether we’re telling our stories, someone else’s or a character’s tale) we must be willing to allow for the dark places. Sometimes we have to write the truth in its dark nakedness. Not to titillate or glorify, but to show it’s depravity. Because, as Ted Dekker once said as a keynoter at Mount Hermon, “The light of redemption shines brighter on a dark canvas.”