This week, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance is introducing As I Have Loved You (Revell June 1, 2007)by Nikki Arana
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Nikki Arana is an award-winning author of highly-acclaimed inspirational women’s fiction who weaves today’s social, political, and spiritual issues into her novels. She has received numerous awards, including the Excellence in Media 2007 Silver Angel Award for The Winds of Sonoma, which was based on the true love story of how Nikki met her future husband Antonio as he was cleaning the stalls of her parents’ Arabian horses. Nikki and Antonio have been married for over thirty years, have two grown sons, and live in Idaho.
ABOUT THE BOOK:
Leigh Scott is a widowed, single mother who wants the best for her son Jeff. She would like him to graduate from college, land a secure job, and start a family. However, Jeff, who was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) at a young age, has a God-given compassion for people. And his non-judgmental acceptance of all has unintended consequences.
Jeff starts dating Jessica, a girl with a questionable past and seemingly non-existent future. Soon, Jeff’s grades drop as quickly as his sober determination to achieve the goals he’s worked toward all his life, and Leigh finds herself caught in a relational tornado.
To complicate matters further, Leigh is an author with a looming book deadline, a father battling cancer, and her former boyfriend and first love, a strong Christian Native American, coming back in her life.
Arana weaves a multi-layered, emotional family saga that brings the peril of judgment, the need for forgiveness and the gift of love to light
Arana has written a thought-provoking story many will identify with, and even be challenged by. It amazes me though, the number of stories we have out discussing judgment, a word that Christians should get out of their vocabularies in my opinion, because it’s of next to no use. It’s been hijacked by an everything goes culture and used to condemn anyone who still believes in biblical morality, which is why I consider it a hindrance to communication more than anything else.
That said, though I suspect we’re collectively falling prey to old Screwtape’s tricks (get them to focus on addressing the issue equal and opposite to the dominant issue of the day) the book addresses quite a few issues many will be challenged by–unforgiveness, using an adult child’s illness or disability as an excuse to cling and not respect them as adults, keeping records of wrongs committed, seeing people as Christ sees them and loving them despite their flaws and past mistakes, seeking the power of God rather than God, that, “the greatest of these [gifts] is love” (1 Cor 13:13) and of course loving people as Christ loves us, as referenced in the title. It’s my favorite kind of read–engages the mind and challenges the heart as well as entertains. Though some of us may feel we have enough problems of this nature in real life.
The Jessica/Jeff relationship is quite interesting. It reads both as a parable of God’s love that would make Hosea proud, and as a what not to do, and why godly women should be the ones to reach out to girls like Jessica. She’s what the old testament writers would call a “strange woman” but she’s also a rejected, abandoned little girl who just wants someone to love her (the kind that wrench my heart out of my chest with wanting to rock their inner child and love on them.) But Jeff’s mom can’t see that hurting little girl inside Jessica. All she sees is the outer strange woman (unintentionally) pulling her son away from God.
Judgment might just be a good word to describe that, on second thought. But we need to be careful not to infuse secular ideas into that word. We are not free to judge–but that also means we’re not free to go against God’s judgment and embrace sin. The sinner, yes, but not the sin.
By the way, a lot of people don’t know this, but shunning, biblically, isn’t just for the Amish, as 1 Cor 5:11,12 says, “But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner-not even to eat with such a person. For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside?”
Which means, in brief, Jessica needed a hug (and taught right, but it’s love that moves mountains with girls like her), and Jeff needed spanked, so to speak. In the latter terms, in saying we should love as God loves, to mesh that with secular notions, we forget one little aspect of God’s love: “My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, Nor detest His correction; For whom the Lord loves He corrects, Just as a father the son in whom he delights” (Proverbs 3:11, 12) Considering the Church today, in embracing secular definitions of love and judgment, has all but lost the will to discipline it’s members, are we really loving as God loves us when we treat people living sinful lifestyles as if what they’re doing is the moral equivalent of God’s way (i.e, marriage) ?
Btw, now that I’m completely down a rabbit trail, other than what I’ve already mentioned, other points that might make this not up your alley are if you don’t like books where homosexuals crop up inexplicably, or books where the grandfather discriminates between heterosexuals living in sin and homosexuals living in sin (as if one is more a sin than the other, but that may be the author’s backhanded point.) Otherwise, if you’re looking for a well written read that will gently challenge you and be nearly impossible to put down (I zipped through most of it in a span of 24 hours) As I Have Loved You is a good choice.