Author Interview: Jerusha Agen
Jerusha Agen joins us today. She is a lifelong lover of story–a passion that has led her to a B.A. in English and a highly varied career. A member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Jerusha is the author of the Sisters Redeemed Series, which includes the titles This Dance, This Shadow, and This Redeemer. Jerusha co-authored the e-books A Ruby Christmas and A Dozen Apologies from Write Integrity Press.
Jerusha is also a screenwriter, and several of her original scripts have been produced as films. In addition, Jerusha is a film critic, with reviews featured at the website, www.RedeemerReviews.com.
Jerusha relishes snowy Midwest winters spent with her large, furry dogs and two small, furry cats.
Welcome, Jerusha. I want to tell you that this story struck so many chords with me, and I thought if it touched me, the issues that reached out and grabbed me might interest your readers. First of all, your hero, Charlotte Davis, was raised without a father. Her mother, at least in my thinking, raised her to put the blame on others for her plight, and Charlotte seems to do this. What would you have to say to those who are living less of a life than God intended for them but who choose to blame others rather than to face facts that often we are our own worst enemies?
First off, I’d tell them to read Charlotte’s story! In my experience, pointing out that people are blaming others for their self-created problems never goes well. How do I know? Because I, like most of us, am guilty of doing this same thing! Yes, Charlotte may be an extreme example, but all of us share her desire to have our guilt be someone else’s. We don’t like to admit our faults or flaws. In fact, this tendency is what keeps many people from Christ. We don’t need a Savior, many of us think, because we’re fine the way we are. Sadly, our culture and even Christians encourage this perspective through the emphasis on building self-esteem. Feel good about yourself, society tells us. Low self-esteem is cited as the root cause of problems like eating disorders, addiction, and suicide.
The solution of the experts is to build up the person’s view of himself or herself. You’re special, perfect, a good person just the way you are, the experts say. You just have to love yourself more. Ironically, the root cause of all such problems and sin is that people already love themselves too much. Even depressed, suicidal individuals who believe they hate themselves are actually living a wholly self-centered existence in which they think only about themselves. Yet, most of us choose this mentality. After all, feeling good about ourselves is so much easier than having to feel guilty and admit we need someone outside ourselves to help us.
But people can’t take a hard, truthful look at their own guilt until God enables them to do so. In an effort to be used of God to get a person like Charlotte to that point of revelation, I would probably borrow your wording and tell that person that God offers a much greater life than what he or she is living. Not a happier, richer, more worldly prosperous life, but a life of deep-seated joy, hope, incomparable power, and the peace that surpasses all understanding. That life isn’t offered to perfect people who have no guilt (no such people exist!)—only to sinners who need a Savior (Romans 7:24-25).
Charlotte also seems to have wanted out from the life she lived with her mother, yet Charlotte finds herself and her child probably in a worse predicament. It even seems that her mother realized that truth as well. Why is it do you think that we often reach for the very thing we should turn from?
Another great question. The Bible has a ton to say on this subject, from the first page to the last. Ever since Adam and Eve’s sin in the Garden of Eden, humans have been born into sin, with a fallen, sinful nature. So we keep reaching for things that harm us either immediately or eventually (even eternally), rather than for the things of God and God Himself, because our nature is bent toward wanting to sin. Our fallen nature is even so twisted that sometimes we perceive sinful things as good and good things as undesirable.
As with the situation of not wanting to admit our guilt, the things we ought to turn from often seem simpler than the alternative. Charlotte, for example, doesn’t want to get caught in an abusive relationship, but she ends up there because following the path that leads to that situation is easier and feels more natural than facing the horror of seeing herself as she truly is.
Reaching for the lesser, often sinful options in life may appear to keep us afloat or happy for a while, and may even seem like the only choice we can make, but in the end these very choices will destroy us. There is another option, the only thing we can reach for and never be disappointed, the only thing that will save us from our own unending pattern of self-destruction. That one thing is a Person—Jesus Christ. (John 8:34-36)
Trust is an issue with Charlotte. She holds a painful secret deep inside, one that she has paid dearly for, but at the same time, it seemed to me that her holding that secret in truly affected her special-needs daughter because Phoebe is a lot brighter than I believe even Charlotte thinks. What would you say to a person who is holding some awful truth inside and needs freedom from that secret to see life clearly?
Let it go! You know that Disney hit song, “Let It Go”? That song actually drives me nuts because it’s about letting go of one’s emotions, which I don’t think people in our world need any more encouragement to do. But the title at least seems pertinent here. Of course, if the secret is dark and carries potentially severe consequences as in Charlotte’s case, then just telling a person with such a secret to “let it go” seems overly simplistic.
Yet, that person will never experience joy, love, hope, or peace until he or she does let that secret go and tells the truth. In reality, an awful truth that is bottled up inside as a secret will eat away at a person’s heart and soul. The person becomes, as you suggested, a slave to that secret, unable to experience freedom or life as God intended.
So while the solution to “let it go” might seem impossibly simple or simply impossible, you’re not really living until you can do just that. You’re dying instead, day by day, moment by moment. If you can’t let the truth come out on your own, ask the Lord to help you. He will, and He’s the only way you’ll ever be free (Galatians 5:1 and John 8:31-32).
I love the romance between Charlotte and Gabe. I’m not going to give it away here, but I think my favorite thing about the romance is how understated the differences are between Gabe and Charlotte. It comes out in the novel, and I love Gabe’s protectiveness over Charlotte. Is Gabe a completely imaginary man or do you know men like Gabe who you have modeled him after?
Since I don’t know a single person who’s exactly like Gabe, my first thought is that he’s completely imaginary. In actuality, he’s probably not a completely original creation, but rather a compilation of traits I’ve seen in the men I’ve known with a dash of idealized imaginary qualities throw in.
As you probably noticed, though, Gabe is far from perfect. He’s a flawed hero and Christian with many faults, just like the rest of us. I enjoyed getting to explore in Gabe the tendency that I think many of us as Christians have to judge others as worse than ourselves because of their sins. Yes, we have every right biblically to “judge the world” (1 Corinthians 6:2), but we have to watch out for the slippery slope Gabe slides down of subsequently comparing ourselves to others and thinking we are innately better. We can’t lose sight of the reality that we are the worst of sinners, saved not because of ourselves but because of and by the grace of Christ alone (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Do you have any future works planned? If so, will you share a little about those with us now?
I recently completed a contemporary suspense novel that I hope to have published. The novel is a tense, but fun journey that takes a self-centered billionaire to Ireland, where he has to face his painful past and solve a 100-year-old mystery.
As much as I loved The Sisters Redeemed series, I’m looking forward to seeing this next one in print. Thank you for sharing with us, Jerusha.
More About This Redeemer:
Not all prisons have bars.
Charlotte Davis should know–she’s lived in one for years. She can handle getting slapped around by her boyfriend, Tommy, and even being forced to do things she would never choose, but when Tommy turns on her 10-year-old daughter, Charlotte must try to escape. With nowhere else to turn, Charlotte runs to the stranger her dying mother believed would help her.
Looking only for shelter or cash, Charlotte finds a family she longs to call her own and a gentle man she can learn to love. But if Tommy catches up with Charlotte, these strangers could discover the truth about her. Will they send her back to Tommy? Or can a Father’s love set her free?
About This Dance:
No love, no pain. No God, no games.
A tragedy three years ago destroyed Nye’s rise to the top of the dancing world as an upcoming tango star, and in the process destroyed her reason for living, too. She survived the pain and built a new life resembling nothing like the one she left behind, determined never to hurt again.
Nye’s emotional walls hold up perfectly until she meets a handsome lawyer and an elderly landowner. They seem harmless, but one awakens feelings she doesn’t want and the other makes her face the God she can’t forgive. Will these two men help Nye dance again?
About This Shadow:
She’s famous for her upbeat outlook. Then her world goes black.
Oriana Sanders is always happy. And why shouldn’t she be? She enjoys a close relationship with God and a purpose-filled career teaching troubled kids. She even has the potential for romance in her sister’s friend, Nicanor, whose dark good looks and brooding manner make him an intriguing project for Oriana.
Oriana’s attempts to reach Nicanor with the joy of the Lord are brought to a halt when a confrontation with her student’s drug-dealing brother ends in tragedy. Facing darkness she has never known, can Oriana learn to forgive the unforgivable and find her way through the shadows to the light?
Check out Inner Source’s interview with Jerusha’s refreshing heroine from This Redeemer, Charlotte Davis.