Where could I have improved? What did I need to make it better? Would it have been more successful if it were written for a more general audience? If I had withheld the direct spiritual revelations and identities in the text, might I have had more impact? Could it have helped more people? Did I get it right? Did this reflect my heart well or merely muddle ideas and issues in a completely incomprehensible mess?
These questions don't haunt me, that would be an overstatement, but they rise from time to time and make me consider the work into which I poured myself for the last 18 months. Frankly, my overt approach with Stronghold was one of the more difficult aspects of my writing it. Part of me wrestled with whether to make it about mentors, "inner demons", and vague notions of spirituality. In many ways I had feared that the book was far too intense, violent, and dark for my Christian readers while too didactic, preachy, and narrow for anyone else. I struggled with how to make it more palatable, but ultimately, the chips fell where they did. And I was satisfied with it as a whole.
I had to just come to a point where I had to accept the story on its own terms, and the story of Stronghold is deeply Christian. The moment I removed the Christian content from it would have been the moment I began writing a different book. Stronghold is the tale of a journey, a fictional retelling of my own experience, and communicating that story without its Christian ethos would be not only less compelling but false. This is not a heroic retelling of a man overcoming his addiction. No. Mine is the story of a man being delivered from an addiction and prepared for a life at war. Any attempt to reduce the latter truth into the paradigm of the former would have done my readers a disservice and destroyed my integrity. For me, the essence of Stronghold is found in the name. Lust had a fortified grip on my heart; and against such a foe, I needed a champion--someone who was greater than I to accomplish what I could not.
In reality, as in the story, that person was Jesus Christ.
Bottom line, Jesus is the anchor of my sobriety. He is the source of my strength and endurance. My virtues in refraining from my sinful desires are are not inherent in my personhood. Christ, in his goodness, came to earth and died for the sins of mankind, and I have, through his own Spirit's leading, accepted this offer for salvation and pursued righteousness as an outpouring of my love for him. In this, my perspective on lust changed, and because of the seal of the Holy Spirit, I have been able to continue serving the Lord rather than myself in regard to this issue, but my commitment is only as strong as my love for the Lord.
I have made a point since the beginning of this journey to make Christ my focus. Not lust itself. Not even my own well being. Focusing on lust makes the journey nothing but a tightrope walk wherein I expect to fall; focus on myself or any earthly relationships places my attention on something that can be wounded, that can disappoint, and in which a person can lose hope.
But Christ. No. He is an unchanging and unwavering safe haven. He is the light that always glimmers when darkness is blinding in its depth and pain. Christ cannot fail; his promises cannot be broken. Its to that type of security a person must cling if they are to overcome the shadows of this world.
For me, any attempt to discuss the issues of Stronghold without giving Christ due credit felt disingenuous. I could not do it. And when I realized that, I placed my spiritual family at the forefront of my mind, and some days the most nerve-racking aspect of the book has been my expectation of the church's response.
What do other Christians think of this? Do they think Stronghold too overt, not overt enough? Too violent? Too sentimental? Do they think it's uneven? Do they consider it an artistic atrocity by virtue of its imaginative licenses? Do they think Christ more beautiful as a result of reading my story of his deliverance?
I have not yet received enough feedback to know the answers to these questions. I was very spoiled at the beta-reading phase, as the book was given a great deal of positive feedback; but since that time, the audience has grown--more importantly, it has grown beyond my personal social circle. Many individuals now engaging the book have no direct framework for who I am or what I was trying to accomplish, whereas many who know me can guess my goals and intentions. We'll see what they think as time passes. I hope that my love for the Lord is evident to such a degree that those who love him as I do see beauty in my journey and its vivid, if fictionalized, retelling.
Not really sure why I felt the need to share all this, but there it is. Thanks for reading,