This is an excerpt from my next novel, The Former Things. It will be published by Ambassador International late this year or in early 2022. The Former Things is a Christian fiction story told from the perspective of an atheist.
What I’m sharing is a part of a flashback of the main character, Sean Winter, when he was still in college. I’d love your feedback in the comments. Let me know what you think!
At the time, Jennie Lou was a sophomore. She grew up in Texas, somewhere near Dallas. We're the same height, though she was heavier than me. She had bright blue eyes, long strawberry blonde hair, and a kind smile. I thought I was in love with her. She led Campus Revival for two years and had recruited me to the cause a few months earlier.
For such an attractive woman, she had a surprisingly rough voice. It reminded me of Peppermint Patty from the Peanuts gang, if she grew up and went to college. She could be kind of bossy like her, too, but I didn’t mind. I was completely devoted to her, which was probably the worst reason to join a college club.
“At least he looked at it, Sean,” she told me after we saw one young man throw away one of our group's pamphlets. “You never know how the Lord may work with him later.”
Jennie Lou always rebuilt the club’s — or rather, my confidence when people rejected our efforts. Despite her encouragement, I hadn’t been convinced this time. I felt like we were wasting our time. But I didn’t want to openly disagree with her. I didn’t want to disappoint her.
“I suppose you’re right, Jennie,” I said, still sounding dejected.
She took me by the shoulders and practically held me up with her own strength. In that moment, all my attention was on her gorgeous heart-shaped face. Just seeing it and being so close to her lifted my spirits in ways nothing else could. I saw that her faith was unshakeable. And I would follow wherever she led...like a grinning idiot.
“Sean, listen to me,” she said, letting go and turning around to face the greater campus. She was wearing one of the purple Campus Revival t-shirts she’d designed. The logo was a white cross rising over the yellow blocky letters “Campus Revival OU.” It was the same on the front and back. I thought it complimented her figure, along with the blue jeans and white sneakers. Still looking away, she stretched out her right arm and opened her palm towards the students walking down the sidewalk. “We’re like front line soldiers for Jesus. We’ve been given a responsibility — us — and this is something we’re uniquely qualified to do.”
Then she swung around and faced me, looking determined. “All we have to do is reach out to the students. It’s up to them whether they accept us or not. But if we don’t try, then the work doesn’t get done at all. Do you understand?”
I didn’t understand at all. Every time we went out in public, we were mocked, even laughed at. Only club members came to our events and not all of them at that. I didn’t feel like we reached anybody. But this was Jennie Lou. I would have climbed a mountain for her. Or endured a thousand insults to protect her honor and beliefs.
But what about my beliefs? I felt like a liar inside. I’d attended church services ever since I came to live with my grandparents. I’d even learned some scriptures. I could behave just like a Christian, but it was all an act. Smile, say the right words, keep out of trouble, and say the blessing. I could do those things. But I had no deep devotion.
About the author
Allen Steadham is a nondenominational Christian. Happily interracially married since 1995 and the proud father of two sons and a daughter. He and his wife have been in the same Christian band since 1997. He plays electric bass, she plays strings, they both sing. It's all good.
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