The story behind My Son, John is an amazing one, and I tell it quite often.
It began nearly twenty years ago, when AIDS was just becoming known in America as a killer disease. We knew little about it, but most of us weren’t too concerned since we figured it would never touch us because we weren’t involved in the high-risk lifestyles associated with contracting the disease.
I was busy working on a writing project and quite happy doing it—until I noticed that God was tapping me on the shoulder, trying to get my attention. Because I was perfectly content with my life as it was, I ignored Him, at least for a while. But the tapping became more insistent, until I finally had to respond or admit that I was disobeying God.
“All right, Lord,” I said at last, “what are You trying to tell me?”
In that moment I knew God wanted me to write a book about AIDS, which made absolutely no sense to me whatsoever. Surely I had misunderstood Him! But the more I listened to that still, small voice, the more I was certain of His marching orders.
I sighed in resignation. “I don’t even know where to start, Father,” I said. “You’ll have to give me some direction here.”
By the next morning it had become clear to me that I was supposed to write a novel about a middle-aged Christian woman (much like myself at the time) who discovers her 23-year-old son, John, has AIDS. It is her first revelation of his homosexual lifestyle.
Wow. I knew this wasn’t going to be an easy assignment, so the next thing I did was ask God to bring someone to me who could help me understand how someone like John might feel in his situation. That night I noticed a letter to the editor in the newspaper, written by a young homosexual activist named Mark, who had AIDS and who was mad at the whole world.
Oh, no, I thought. Please, God, don’t make me work with him!
But of course Mark was just the one God had chosen. In fact, when I called him and told him about the book, his immediate response was, “Yes, I want to work with you on this because I want to make sure you get it right.”
We scheduled an initial lunch meeting, and from the moment we sat down at the table, Mark began to tell me exactly how he felt.
“I hate people like you,” he declared. “It’s because of you Christians that I have AIDS.”
I did my best not to show my surprise, allowing him to continue to rant while I prayed silently, hoping God might show me that I had misunderstood and Mark was not the person I was to work with on this project. But even as I prayed, Mark stopped speaking for a moment and glanced out the window. When he looked back, there was a hint of tears in his eyes, and he said, “Sometimes I wonder if people like you are right.”
Before I could respond, he returned to his previous mode of blaming everyone but himself for his condition, but in that brief instant, God had allowed me to see the chink in Mark’s armor.
And so we began to work together on the book, though Mark made me promise never to “preach at him.” I kept my promise, but Mark read everything I wrote, chapter by chapter. And though we didn’t have a meeting of the minds, we did have a meeting of the hearts. Mark and I became friends; we learned to care for one another, even as we acknowledged the differences between us.
Finally, just after Mark had read the last chapter and returned it to me with his comments and suggestions, he called me. His voice was weak, as he spoke from a hospital bed at his mother’s home.
“Do you really believe all that Jesus stuff you wrote about in the book?” he wheezed.
“Yes, Mark, I do,” I assured him.
“Then you have five minutes to convince me not to kill myself right now.”
It took longer than five minutes, but before we hung up I had the privilege of leading Mark to Christ. He died a few days later.
And the book? I couldn’t sell it anywhere. Though every publisher who saw it agreed that it was a wonderfully written story, no one was willing to offer a contract—until nearly twenty years later, when I learned that my friend Joan had launched Sheaf House and was looking for “Christian fiction with an edge.” Sounded like My Son, John to me!
Joan agreed, though after we talked about it for a while, we decided to change the storyline from a young man who has AIDS to a young man who murders a family member. The theme of unconditional love and forgiveness would remain the same.
The rest, as they say, is history. But oh, what I learned between the time I started writing this book and the time it finally saw the light of publication! Before I began writing My Son, John I always thought the mark of a successful book was that it got published and sold lots of copies. (And hey, that’s not a bad thing!) But I now know that My Son, John was a success long before I ever found a publisher willing to take a chance with it. And if I hadn’t found a publisher at all, it would still have been a success because I now have a dear friend named Mark waiting for me in heaven. For that reason, I consider My Son, John the most successful of all my books, regardless of the ultimate sales figures. For after all, isn’t knowing that our work has made an eternal difference in someone’s life what this “Christian writing ministry” is all about?
Kathi Macias is a multi-award winning writer who has authored nearly 30 books and ghostwritten several others. A former newspaper columnist and string reporter, Kathi has taught creative and business writing in various venues and has been a guest on many radio and television programs. Kathi is a popular speaker at churches, women’s clubs and retreats, and writers’ conferences, and recently won the prestigious 2008 member of the year award from AWSA (Advanced Writers and Speakers Association) at the annual Golden Scrolls award banquet. Kathi “Easy Writer” Macias lives in Homeland, CA, with her husband, Al, where the two of them spend their free time riding their Harley.
Visit Kathi’s website at www.kathimacias.com and her blog at http://kathieasywritermacias.blogspot.com/. Beginning October 15, 2009, listen to Kathi as she hosts “Write the Vision” every Thursday from 6—7 p.m. (Pacific Time) via THE International Christian Network (www.theicn.com).