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  • Writer's picture Denise-Marie Martin

Gritty Christian Fiction and Merciful Love

Updated: Aug 26, 2022

The dragon sits by the side of the road, watching those who pass. Beware lest he devour you. We go to the Father of Souls, but it is necessary to pass by the dragon.

~St. Cyril of Jerusalem (313-386 A.D.)

I tried to write Tangled Violets: A Novel of Redemption over many years. You are reading this blog post now because I failed to run away one last time. I started and stopped, tossed it all, and started writing all over again more times than I wish to remember. Why? Because I couldn’t find anything out there as raw, honest, and bold as what I wanted to write. And so I was afraid. But I persisted because I felt someone out there needed to hear Elizabeth Schmidt’s story.

The novel Tangled Violets, exemplifies gritty Christian fiction—realistic struggle and authentic redemption—a study in the mystery of divine love for broken humanity.

My novel, Tangled Violets, exemplifies what I call gritty Christian fiction. It is a story as shocking as the Mercy of God and is an outreach of sorts to those imprisoned by SHAME for what they consider unforgivable and unmentionable sins. It is a study of the mystery of divine love for broken humanity. #GrittyChristianFiction #EdgyInspirationalFiction

Plumbing the Depths of Mercy

My flavor of Christian fiction exposes the horror of sin but also the redemptive healing that God offers. As St Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans, nothing can separate us from God’s love—not even our sins—if we are honest with ourselves and God, imploring and accepting God’s grace to turn our lives around.

Tangled Violets is the story of a God who loves us beyond our wildest dreams and certainly beyond what we deserve. As Jesus told St. Faustina: The greater the sinner, the greater the right he has to My mercy. (Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, entry 723) #DiaryofStFaustina

God works in mysterious and life-changing ways in the lives of all people. It is easy to drift into non-belief and denial of God because of hearts hardened by sin. Working with God’s grace and accepting his forgiveness can mean that we have to change our lives completely —which can be terrifying. That is why a Christian-based recovery program and Christian psychotherapy loom large in Tangled Violets.

While many of my readers may never experience the sense of abandonment that my protagonist feels, most people have tasted fear and betrayal. Betrayal, especially of a sexual nature, at the hands of a family member or clergy, is especially difficult to overcome, let alone admit. And often, only after years of self-recrimination does one reach out for help.

John Paul I, who died on in 1978 after only 33 days as pope, said, “The Lord loves humility so much that sometimes he permits serious sins. Why? In order that those who committed these sins may, after repenting, remain humble. One does not feel inclined to think oneself half a saint, half an angel, when one knows that one has committed serious faults.” Several centuries earlier, St. Frances de Sales wrote, “God hates faults because they are faults. On the other hand, however, in a certain sense, he loves failings, since they give him an opportunity to show his mercy and us an opportunity to remain humble and to understand and to sympathize with our neighbors’ failings.” [Quotes from John Paul I and St. Frances de Sales excerpted from this article.]

For Elizabeth Schmidt, the “gift” of her sins is a tiny window into the inexhaustible mercy of God. Once she understands God’s love for her, she falls deeply in love with him. The realization of God’s unconditional love does not blot out the painful remorse for the tidal wave of regret and destruction that her sin caused. But it is the source of strength she needs to turn her life around.

Taking his inspiration from the writing of St. Therese of Lisieux and St. Faustina, Fr. Michael Gaitley writes on page 163 of his book, 33 Days to Merciful Love:

“Now Merciful Love is that particular kind of love that seeks out brokenness, suffering, sin, and weakness. Do we understand, then, why Jesus loves us when we go to him as we are, sinfulness and all? It’s because our weakness and wretchedness are precisely what attracts his Merciful Love. Thus, he simply (and eagerly) awaits our fiat." #FrMichaelGaitley #33DaysToMercifulLove

In the final analysis, Tangled Violets is the story of God’s pursuit of his lost children. And while Elizabeth Schmidt didn’t get up in the morning saying, how can I commit a mortally wounding sin, she did get up each morning without the moral guiderails of Christianity. She chose to do what was right in her own eyes—the poisoned mantra of today's culture. Elizabeth creates a secret life that seems impossible to salvage and bring into the light. Ultimately, however, she encounters a God, who passionately woos her with the ardor and purity of a first love, amidst her stained life. And that changes EVERYTHING!

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1 Comment

Jul 21, 2022

I love the JPI quote! When applied to a fictional story, it can give the character more realism and depth. Recalling his past sins is what keeps my protagonist humble as he moves forward in his new Christian life, too.

Excited to read your novel!

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