As regular readers know, I have a book coming out shortly – The Broken Trail. It’s a contemporary Christian romance in which a smart, successful education consultant travels to a rural Maine town to help turn around the local private school and ends up locking horns with the town’s police captain. I write fiction that reflects the real world so there’s some challenging stuff in it; the challenges of kids in foster care, drug addiction, teen pregnancy, and the damaging impact of church gossip. Not light stuff. At heart, it’s a love story, but it doesn’t look away from all the struggles surrounding the couple.
Katherine, the main character, is downright unlikable in spots (but in the end I promise you’ll love her) because someone who has survived what she has, someone with her wounds can be tough to deal with. On the surface Katherine is intelligent, successful, even nice. To get by she made a habit of not letting anyone below that surface other than her mom, her sisters, and her best friend. They know the real, messy,and complicated person who is in desperate need of healing. I bet you can think of one person in your own life (maybe even you) who fits this description, someone who smiles on the outside while a whirling mass of conflict inside.
As the book opens Katherine has traveled to Maine to work a contract that she’s overqualified for with the hopes that a small town and the wilderness around it will bring her some peace. She doesn’t know how to change and deep down inside, she doesn’t know if she can. Pete, one of the central characters, spots this conflict from the first time he meets her and she’s surprised because she’s managed to fool everyone around her for years. Little cracks in her surface appear right about the time Mac, our hero, decides he’s falling for her, and she starts to lose hold of her carefully constructed facade.
We all have a version of that facade. It’s the face we put on for the world when we’re hurting, or feel a need to protect ourselves. We put up that shield in all sorts of places,
cocktail parties, school events, work, and sadly, sometimes church. One of the many things I love about the church I attend is that it’s a safe place to leave your facade behind. And if you bring it, the good souls there will probably see beyond it anyway. People there are ‘broken in the good way’ so to speak and they encourage others to be the same, compassionate, kind, patient, speaking the truth in love. That doesn’t mean that at coffee hour I don’t haul my shield up in preparation for small talk. Luckily, more often than not, it’s half-hearted and I end up having a conversation with someone who hasn’t bothered with theirs at all.
The truth is that even folks who are well put together and look like they’ve got a handle on it, often don’t. One of my favorite things is getting to know someone who is willing to be real, to let themselves be vulnerable enough to be honest about themselves and their struggles. It’s where true friendship begins. Too many humans are walking around in armor, protecting themselves against the slings and arrows of fate along with the judgement and nastiness of others. It’s a lonely way to be. When we build these walls we keep out more than just the bad stuff.