• Debbie Salter Goodwin

What Books Teach Me About God

I love books. Books open worlds we cannot visit, enlarge our imaginations, and give us uncomplicated ways to explore ideas and perspectives. Whether it is fiction or non-fiction, devotional or Bible study; books remind us that our ideas and outlooks often need review.


That’s why I want to share three books from literature that have impacted my life to this day. They continue to be faith-markers for me. Maybe they will for you as well.


Les Misérables by Victor Hugo


The whole story is one of redemption. From the moment main character Jean Val Jean steals

the candlesticks from the priest who shared hospitality when no one else had, we cannot escape the comparison to God’s hospitality toward us. However, my favorite passage is later when Jean Val Jean confronts a crisis. He must decide whether to remain the good man he had become in a new community with a new name or take the place of the man he was, the escaped prisoner, to save an innocent man’s life. It was Gethsemane for Jean Val Jean, torturous and life changing.


[Jean Val Jean] always fell back onto this paradox at the core of his thought. To remain in paradise and become a demon! To re-enter hell and become an angel. . .What should He do?


Later, we learn about policeman Javert and the danger of a rigid, duty-bound conscience not shaped by God, but exercised as man’s best effort to please God. He is the villain in the story because of his twisted understanding of God and God’s expectations of him.


What was happening in Javert was the derailment of a soul irresistibly hurled in a straight line and breaking up against God. . . Certainly, it is strange, mounted on the blind iron horse of the rigid path—could be thrown off by a ray of light! God . . . he the true conscience.


These scenes remind me that all choice is a Gethsemane that takes us closer to God or sets us back.


Beloved Invader by Eugenia Price

Georgia novelist, Eugenia Price, came to faith late in life. She didn't write her first historical novel until 1965. I will never forget the night I was reading, completely engrossed in the story, when God stepped in through her words and taught me a definition for redeem that I have used and lived since the day I read it in the 1970’s. This is a stand-alone passage to me and doesn’t even need the story to prop it up:


Sometimes she felt that everything her husband believed was based on the simple fact that God will not waste anything if we give Him a chance to redeem it. He is not only a Redeemer of our sin, but He is a Redeemer of our circumstances as well.


The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis


There are so many parts of this series that have impacted my understanding of our earth journey, where we’re headed and how to get there.

I cannot read the death scene of Aslan, the Lion, an unmistakable representation of Christ, at the Great Stone Table in Lion, Witch and Wardrobe without crying. For me it shoves in front of my face what my willfulness cost Jesus.


I cannot read the crossing over from Narnia to the Forever World in The Last Battle in any other way than as a celebration of Heaven. In fact, it is that scene that I envision every time I sing or hear “Crown Him with Many Crowns.” Lewis describes a glassy sea covered with white lilies and going on and on forever beyond all ability to see. It is so hopeful and inviting that everything on earth pales against it.


So, don’t be surprised if in the middle of a story that has grabbed you, God shows up to teach you something that you have had trouble learning or articulating. It is the way of story. And the greatest story ever told never grows old.


What about you? Do you have any stories that continue to teach you the way God loves and leads? I’d love to know what they are. Share them in the comment box below.



Photos by Debby Hudson, Debbie Goodwin

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