A good story can change lives. If you combine the right ingredients you can create a narrative to stir emotions, incite revolt, calm fears, and spark romance. Among these outcomes a good narrative can also bring someone to a deeper understanding of who God is and who we are. That’s the effect Clear Winter Nights (Multnomah Books, 2013) had on me.
Trevin Wax brings the characters to life in a way that seems to relate to friends I have seen come and go. He makes his characters doubt and then brings them back again. He makes them feel pain and then causes them to rejoice. He uses the characters emotions and works them out in such a way that it sparks memories and emotions in the reader, which may have been buried or hidden for some time. In short, he connects the readers to the characters of the story in such a way that our doubts and fears are realized in this small narrative.
The main character of the story, Chris Walker, comes upon the scene as a man with a beautiful fiancée, a bright future, leadership opportunities, and the world at his fingertips, but there is only one kink in the system; Chris has overwhelming doubt as to his direction in life so he let’s go of all those things and simply lets them fall to the ground. He then seeks a weekend of refuge with his grandfather who has just had a stroke. A well-known pastor, his grandfather Gil, reaches out to him in ways few would dare to do so, he gives his grandson the clear Gospel of Jesus Christ.
I don’t understand how difficult it must be to combine deep theological truths with a good narrative, for I am skilled in neither, but I do grasp the necessity of doing so. Trevin has managed to write a compelling story while intermingling the theological trademarks of Scripture. Wax also incorporates into his writing, broad strokes of apologetics and evangelism, all the while upholding the story so that it does not become one big theology lesson. The following passage makes this point clearly.
Chris racked his brain, trying to remember the notes he took from Dr. Coleman’s lectures on moral behavior in the world religions. He remembered enough of the main themes to get his point across. “Take the spring celebration. Passover comes during springtime. The Jews celebrate their freedom from slavery. It’s a celebration of humans breaking the chains of bondage. Inspiring, really. A demonstration of the unbreakable nature of the human spirit and the longing for freedom we all share.”
“Easter’s the same thing. the triumph of the human spirit. Just think – here is Jesus standing up against he oppression of the Roman Empire, and after His death, His movement is carried on by His disciples until it outlasts even Caesar’s reign.
Gil cocked an eyebrow and then interrupted. “Am I to suppose you’re going to talk about how Islam celebrates the binding of Isaac, and how submission is the path to human greatness, right?”
Chris didn’t respond, but he was thinking to himself, How did he know?
Gil chucked. “Pious poppycock,” he said quietly
in this passage we see conversations many of us have had, we realize our own doubts about Christianity but Wax wants to take us further than questions. He provides answers and does not leave the reader wondering if the conversations trail off into nowhere. He brings them to a powerful conclusion.
This book was stirring at least, and life-changing at best. It presents a clear gospel according the Scripture and urges the reader to move beyond mere questions about faith. He urges the reader to action through the lives of the characters. As a fan of non-fiction writing, this is only the second fiction narrative I have read since High School, and that was over ten years ago. I enjoyed the book and will continue to enjoy more fiction if it’s written in the same vein. I don’t usually like stories but I would gladly recommend this book to anyone who loves a good story with compelling characters and a strong conclusion. I hope to see some more from Trevin Wax in the future.
TREVIN WAX is managing editor of The Gospel Project, an all-ages small-group curriculum developed by LifeWay Christian Resources. A former missionary and pastor, Wax is a popular blogger (Kingdom People) and a contributor to Christianity Today. He is also the author of Counterfeit Gospels and Holy Subversion. He and his wife, Corina, reside in middle Tennessee with their children.