Autumn Macarthur

Real romance, real faith!

My testimony

Originally published in 2018 as a guest post on Phyllis Shelton’s Among the Reads blog, which is no longer active.


Last week, Jen Rodewald shared her beautiful and inspiring testimony, from the viewpoint of the older son in the parable of the prodigal son. I so hope the older brother did relent and join the feast! My story mirrors the other son’s journey.

Stunned and overwhelmed at the welcome home the Father gives him. The dirt and dust from his long travels home covered with a fine robe. His hunger fed with an abundant feast. His thirst satisfied. His hurting heart healed by the love and acceptance his Father shows him.

One of the things I love most about God is His patience. If we wander away, He’ll keep on calling us back, gently but persistently, reminding us that no matter what we do or how far we stray from Him, all we need to do is call on the name of Jesus. The Father will forgive us and welcome us home again with open, loving arms.

I grew up in a far-from-Christian family. Yet God and Jesus always fascinated me. I begged to be allowed to go to Sunday School, and finally my parents relented. I read and reread the children’s Bible I received one Christmas over and over, until it began to fall apart.

At sixteen, I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior. I avidly studied the Bible, read Christian books, listened to Christian music, attended church and Christian camps, even trained to be a camp counselor.

But my faith had shallow roots and shriveled easily.

In my twenties, angry with God over unfulfilled dreams I saw no sign of ever coming true, frustrated when I saw others enjoying a feast I seemed to be locked out of, I turned away from Him.

I made so many wrong decisions. Strayed far from the life God intended for me. Squandered my inheritance just as much as the prodigal son did. Wasted far too many years on compulsive eating and compulsively reading secular romances. Then when I stopped that, I simply switched addictions. Instead, I drank excessively and made many bad relationship choices. My heart stayed hard and unforgiving toward God and people I felt had hurt me.

Thankfully, He didn’t give up on me!

He used an unusual route to call me back to Him. A writing competition.

As fifty approached, I decided it was time to work on one of those unfulfilled dreams — to become a published author. I’d started writing plenty of romance stories over the years, but stopped after only one or two chapters each time. Comparing what I’d written to published books, I judged my writing as not good enough.

This time, in a switch that could only be a God thing, I stopped judging and started writing through those doubts. Each draft I wrote, I learned more of how to shape and structure a story, how to take a bad first draft and improve it. I started entering the first chapter writing competitions Harlequin regularly hold, entering every one. Of course, as I was so far from Him, I wrote secular romance. I am so thankful now that none of those stories were accepted for publication!

Then in 2013, I saw a competition to write for Harlequin Love Inspired. A huge jump from the steamy romance I’d been writing! Not for me.

But I kept feeling nudged to enter. An insistent nudge I couldn’t ignore. I drafted a story for Love Inspired Historical, pushing myself to write faster than I believed I could. My draft was what I call inspy-lite. The story was clean. The characters go to church and sing hymns and read their Bibles, but their faith didn’t grow and deepen through the story. Their relationship with God didn’t have much impact on their lives. And the story simply didn’t work.

I got about two-thirds through and discovered I’d probably chosen the wrong hero, and that the story needed to be at least 20,000 words longer than the specified word count. The story didn’t feel like the one I should be writing. Yes, I had to recognize it. It wasn’t the story God wanted me writing.

Then, finally, I realized. It was time for me to come home. God wanted me handing my life and my writing over to Him again. He didn’t want me writing inspy-lite. He wanted me writing stories where He made the biggest difference to my characters. A new story idea blossomed, I drafted a first chapter and a hundred-word pitch. The editor asked to see a full manuscript.

By the time I finished drafting the story that eventually became His Father’s Son, I was fully His. A strong forgiveness theme emerged as I wrote. In that first draft the heroine was so angry. So hard. So unwilling to forgive. As I wrote, God showed me the core issue taking me so far from him for so long was my lack of forgiveness. The reason I couldn’t feel His love for me, couldn’t feel forgiven, couldn’t trust in His promises.

Along with Anna I rediscovered faith, discovered for the first time what it means to truly surrender to Him. I learned to forgive. Along with Luke, I learned what coming home really means, and the need to forgive ourselves as well as others.

With every story I’ve written since then, God has taught me the same lessons the hero and heroine need to learn.

I’ve learned what it truly means to be deeply rooted in faith: So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in
him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. (Colossians 2:6-8, NIV)

I’ve learned to appreciate how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3: 18b-19 NIV)

And I’m still learning.