When I was in junior high school, I was in a one-act where I played the role of an innocent young woman accused of witchcraft. When my character realizes she can save herself by pretending to be bewitched, she begins to scream that one of the other girls in her prison cell Ã¢â‚¬ ” a friend, actually Ã¢â‚¬ ” is tormenting her. My character is led away to freedom and the woman she accused falsely is led away to her execution. I hated the way I felt inside being that person, first someone falsely accused, and then someone who accuses falsely.
My interest in the emotional and spiritual lessons of the Salem Witch Trials began with that play, 35 years ago. Like my character, the people who were executed in 1692 Salem were innocent. But unlike my character, they all died refusing to confess they were in partnership with Satan. They held onto truth to the point of death. That, to me, is incredibly inspiring.
In The Shape of Mercy, I explore the rocky path of making snap judgments, the unreliable and sometimes corrupt power of groupthink and the tragic results when we let fear dictate our choices. The three women in my story have three very basic things in common. They are all daughters of influential men, all raised as an only child, and each one must decide who they are. Are they women who stand for the truth even if they stand alone or do they let fear propel them to do what the crowd says to do, even if the crowd is wrong?
We have to train ourselves to see people the way God sees people. Having that kind of vision takes incredible discipline because our nature is not to see things like He does. I saw myself often in Lauren, the character in my book who transcribes the 300-year-old diary of a victim of the Salem Witch Trials, as the story revealed how she truly didn’t want to judge people but she did. She just did. We all do. We see a homeless man begging on the streets and we make all kinds of assumptions about how he got there and what he would do if we reached out to help him. Jumping to conclusions seems to permeate culture, regardless of the generation. Whatever the crowd says, we too easily believe. We need to fix our eyes on God, not the crowd.
The good news is when we embrace the virtue of mercy instead of judgment, we become ambassadors of hope. People with hope are attracted to the good they see in other people. My hope is this book reinforces that hope, that mercy has a shape and its shape is love. . .
Blessings upon you, over you and within in you,
Author of The Shape of Mercy, 2009 ECPA Fiction Book of the Year, RITA finalist, ACFW Book of the Year finalist, Publishers Weekly Top 100 Books for 2009.