Last night, my friend Kim and I drove two hours to hear Francine Rivers speak on the Christian life and writing. Francine was speaking at my sister’s church, so we met Wendy and slipped into a packed-to-the-edges room.

Francine spoke for an hour and a half, answering questions about her books and her life and her writing process.

I think what impressed me, most of all, was that Francine had a messy life prior to becoming a Christian. But after becoming a Christian…she feels forgiven! Her writing is all about the grace of God and His mercy.

Francine was open about her regrets in her “BC” life (before Christ)–very influenced by the drug culture of being a teen/young adult in the ’60s, had an illegal abortion, married a former Marine who served in Vietnam during some terrible events. She and husband Rick both brought a lot of “baggage” to their marriage, she said.

Though Francine had some success as a writer of steamy romance novels, she said she focused her entire life on writing…it was her idol. At one point, her husband said to her, “If you had to choose writing over me and the kids, I think you’d choose the kids.”

“He was right!” Francine said.

Increasing marital difficulties in Francine’s life finally pushed her to try to attend church. A pesky little 8-year-old neighbor boy was helping the Rivers move into their new home in Northern California and said, “Have I got a church for you!”

Francine ended up attending the church, alone. It was the first church she had ever attended that preached the Bible. Eventually, she took her children, and finally, when her husband continued to refuse to attend, she asked the pastor to come to her home To quote her, “If Rick wouldn’t go to church, I was going to bring the church to him!”

The family became Christians–and then (are you expecting a happy ending?!)…life fell apart! She said that writing didn’t make any sense any more, yet it had been her entire identity. The pastor continued giving Bible studies in their home and they read through the book of Hosea. Francine felt God prompting her, “This is the romance I want you to write!”

That book was Redeeming Love–which might always be her best book. It still hits the bestseller lists! And it’s been published into 25 languages.

She talked about the writing process–she starts with a big question, and spends the book answering the question through her characters. She studies Scripture diligently because, she said, she doesn’t know the answer to the question she’s asking. She “goes to God to find out the answers.”

“I believe God works in all of us that way,” Francine said. “We ask the questions, God starts to answer.”

Loved that remark!

It was a wonderful evening–well worth four hours of driving (actually, my friend Kim did all the driving! I was editing a manuscript with a flashlight in the dark.) I admired Francine’s enthusiasm about her faith, about Christ as the center of her writing. She loves Jesus Christ, passionately! “If you can take Christ out of a novel,” she said, “then it isn’t a Christian story.”

Her writing now is a form of worship in her life, rather than an idol. She writes four pages a day and stops. Period. And she said that if she ever doesn’t have a story to write that glorifies God, she hopes God will take her writing away.

Impressive! And inspiring.

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