Recent events have triggered my anxiety disorder. My mind and body is in a perpetual state of fight-or-flight response. A door closing too swiftly gives me full on panic attacks. It’s times like this that I find my Jesus’s love a true solace. My refuge. My strong tower that doesn’t change the circumstances but reminds me with Him, I’m safe and loved.
I know the enemy is attacking because I’m about to put out another book that dispels his lies. Another book that God will use to free people from false ideas that they are not worthy or loveable. But there are characters in each book that you really don’t want to love—not even as the author who created them. They’re called antagonists.
Those who make our lives difficult…
When I write the characters who make my protagonist’s life difficult, I pray for them. I ask God to show me His love for them. As I wrote this story in particular, I prayed the reader would see none of them are beyond redemption. That God is working in their lives, too, it’s just not yet time for their story to be redeemed.
In Song in the Dark, there are several antagonists. First there are the two killers Dean is searching for. American society still holds fast to a punitive system for those deemed unfit for society, and murderers are top of that list. Lock them up, throw away the key, and forget about them is the predominant feeling. In some states the death penalty is still an option, but thankfully not in New York where this book is set. But that’s not God’s heart.
Do not delight in the death of the wicked…
As a homicide detective, Dean sees the worst of humanity. He sees himself as the one who finds justice for the dead, but I specifically aligned his views with God’s—he doesn’t delight in the death of the wicked. His focus is always on motive (the heart). Both killers have a twist to their rationalization for murder that shows how Satan can misconstrue love. In the end, God shows His love for them by having them caught to face justice, leaving the reader to decide their fate.
Jenna’s antagonists are her mother and ex-boyfriend. Of all the characters the reader wants to hate, Andrew Tuchi is top of the list. He’s a narcissist with a superiority complex whose charm masks his sinful nature. But it’s really Jenna’s mother who is the central antagonist. Without her, the ex wouldn’t be in the picture and there would be no reason Dean and Jenna couldn’t be together.
Elizabeth Fields is a mix of narcissist and overbearing mother. Unfortunately, I have friends who have grown up with this toxic mix. Parents they could never be good enough for. Parents that taught them love had to be earned. Parents who made love conditional on being impossibly perfect.
Dealing with one narcissist is hard enough, but Jenna has two who trap her in a cycle difficult to break free from. While she will do anything to sever her relationship with Andrew, she doesn’t want to cut her mother off entirely. They’re family and she loves her mother.
No amount of love will fix someone who doesn’t want to admit they’re broken…
Narcissism is conditioned into the foundations of personality. Statistically, narcissists are difficult to rehabilitate. Like sociopaths, something inside them is broken. They don’t see any wrong in most of their behavior. They really believe they are doing what is best for themselves and those close to them. Unless they accept that they are broken, get to the heart of how they came to be that way, and learn to recognize when they are manipulating and hurting those around them, it’s impossible to keep a healthy relationship with them.
Healthy boundaries are the ultimate love…
While I didn’t grow up with narcissistic parents, I grew up trying to be worthy of love. Meeting God taught me what unconditional love was. He loves me, in spite of myself. There’s nothing I could do that would make Him turn His back on me. Grieve His heart—sure. But He’d chase me to the gates of Hell and weep if I chose to walk through them. That’s the Jesus I serve by writing my stories.
But while He calls us to love our enemies, love those who persecute us and want to do us harm, He also shows us sometimes the greatest way to show love is not by staying willing victims, but by setting healthy boundaries. Loving someone enough to say, “I will not let you hurt me, yourself, or others in this way,” is a powerful lie breaker. It’s difficult. In fact, it will grieve us mightily. But it is the truest expression of love.
As I wrote Song in the Dark, I watched God show His love to Dean and Jenna. But I also watched Him show the antagonists that their ideas of love wasn’t His love. It wasn’t true. It was conditional and thus as fake as zirconium. In His own way, He shows each of them His love offers freedom. Freedom from expectations and requirements. And that freedom lies on the other side of their darkness.
How do you love your antagonists?
Jessica White writes stories that shape the soul. She has two historical novels out in her Seasons of Healing series. Her first contemporary romance Song in the Dark, releases March 3rd with Mantle Rock. You can learn more about her and her books at her website. Sign up for her email list to receive a free 30 day devotional and join her as she journeys with God on her Facebook page.