“Then they sat down on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights with no one speaking a word to him, for they saw that his pain was very great.”
Job 2:13 (NIV)
I have sought the comfort of the book of Job many times in my life. In times of personal suffering and loss, God often reminds me how in the midst of Job’s suffering, He came. And in the whirlwind, He answered. Not right away, not in Job’s time, but in His time – the perfect time when Job’s heart could take in the words of healing.
In past years I trained in theology, counseling and psychology. I was on a quest to understand my brokenness, and that of others. I’m still on that quest, though my method has taken another form. I write novels. C.S. Lewis said, “We read to know we are not alone.” Something blooms inside of me when I read those words. Something from the aching place rises and calls out its ‘yes and amen’. And in the lonely hours of writing, I remind myself that the effort is worth the opportunity to befriend the reader, to be a voice of assurance that she is not alone. I see myself as the silent companion of the reader. The friend in the silence.
On the surface, it seems a paradox that I use words to achieve the silent friendship readers seek. That it is a story playing out inside the reader’s mind that creates stillness for her. But a good book does just that – creates pools of quiet minutes and hours.
As I write, I’m often reminded of a time when, as a counselor, I was in conversation with a man who was going through a divorce. He spoke for a long time of how his hopes for the future were destroyed. When he finished speaking, I sat in silence, knowing I had no great words of healing. He was silent too, spent from telling his story. Our silence stretched into minutes. Then, the man began to cry. I still said nothing. More minutes passed, and the man said, “That’s the first time I’ve cried since this whole mess started.” Then, surprisingly, he said, “You’ve helped me so much.”
From my perspective, my silence was a result of my limitations as a counselor. But then I remembered Job 2:13, how Job’s friends, who would later make a great mess of things, began so well by sitting in silence with Job for seven days and nights.
When I write, I strive to be one of Job’s friends, sitting silently beside the reader, a compatriot, empathizer, fellow wonderer. I look for places in the story where I can help the reader take a breath and reflect in order to listen to her own silence, and to be better able to sense God’s presence and hear His voice.
This is why I strive to ensure my stories offer no snappy fast answers, no chatty clichés. Because someone will read my novel in order to know she is not alone. Henri Nouwen said, “When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.”
I strive to be a friend who cares about the reader – even if I never have the opportunity to meet her.
Bonnie Grove started writing when her parents bought a spanking new typewriter. She clacked out a very bad romance novel her mother loved, and has been pounding out ever improving prose since then. Her debut novel, Talking to the Dead has received rave reviews from Francine Rivers, Kathleen Popa, Mary De Muth and others.
Of her work, Bonnie says – “All my writing, short stories, novels, non-fiction – the whole shebang – are explorations of God’s grace at work in the world.”
Bonnie is Mom to two young children, Benjamin, and Heather, and happily married to her soul mate Pastor Steve. They live in Saskatchewan, Canada.
Visit Bonnie here – http://www.bonniegrove.com/index.html