Saturday, November 7, 2020

Way Station or Fire Escape?

On a recent visit to Mounds State Park, my wife Maribeth and I were delighted to find a butterfly way station. This small patch of land (perhaps a tenth of an acre) is a place of respite for migrating butterflies, especially monarchs and swallowtails. On the chilly October afternoon we visited, a pungent smell of decaying leaves dominated the breeze, announcing the next act in the forest’s continuing drama of life. Except for a small clump of maroon asters, all vegetation at the butterfly way station had died as well. Our local garden club had cleared the blackened leaves away, raking the soil to receive snow melts sure to come in the next few months.

A plaque said that the spot is normally a colorful thicket of wildflowers that provide nectar for mature butterflies, succulent milkweed leaves for caterpillar hatchlings, and thick foliage where these insects at any life stage can hide from their feathered predators. It’s a place where weary migrants find rest and refreshment before they travel on.

Sequestered by the Covid-19 pandemic, most of us have had more time for reading lately, so I have been thinking about the reasons people read Christian fiction. I reflected in an earlier blog that escapism might be one reason, but is it our foremost objective as Christian authors? Is it the primary reason for people to read our work?

Impressed by Christian authors like Flannery O’Connor who wrote for the secular press, former advertising executive Richard Doster observed, “It might be time to reconsider our neighbors and their need to make sense of the world; their need for books, poems, and short stories that probe life’s mystery, that offer hope without flinching from the Fall’s consequences, that don’t—by their sentimentality—mock our true state, or the price that was paid for the world’s redemption.”[1] So Doster began writing Christian novels. Perhaps his convictions resonate with yours.

We live in trying times, as this week's election demonstrated. When the stress is intense, we instinctively look for a fire escape, yet quality Christian fiction doesn't serve that purpose. It doesn't offer us an easy exit from the world where God has placed us.

I believe instead that Christian fiction is a way station for travel-weary people in today’s world. Sometimes it gives us a fresh perspective, sometimes new resources to cope, and sometimes a personal transformation. But by no means does it allow us to avoid the tough problems of our world.

[1] Richard Doster, “The Calling of Christian Writers,”



  1. Well said. May we be Light and Life for those who read our work.

  2. Thank you for reminding us of the role Christian fiction can play. I like the imagery of our writing being a type of way station, a place of momentary rest where wearied friends can pause for a moment and be refreshed with the overall truth that good really does exist, and that in the end, it will triumph.