Readers, today I’m thrilled to introduce you to a debut author who’s making waves with her book, A Fierce Love. I was so intrigued when I heard there was a Christian woman out there who’d written a story of how she stayed the course in a marriage that had been rocked with her husband’s affair.
Now, you all know a theme in many of my books (particularly my Viking series) is dealing with the real-life issues we run into in our marriages (even Christian ones!), including infidelity. So today I wanted to invite Shauna over and ask her a few questions about her book, which I’ll be offering in softcover format to one winner who enters below!
A little more about Shauna:
Shauna Shanks is a wife, mother, and entrepreneur. She started Smallfolk, a health food café, out of her passion for health and fitness and unchecked desire to make fancy pop tarts. She graduated from Christ for the Nations Institute in Dallas, Texas, with a focus on world missions. Shauna and her husband, Micah, who is a police officer, have been married for more than a decade, and they are building a house out of shipping containers with their three boys on an Ohio farm.
Interview with Author Shauna Shanks:
HG: Shauna, welcome to my blog. Girl, I am so amazed that you had the courage to write this book, which I feel will be a blessing for so many struggling in their marriages. I just want to start with a quote from your blog (which I thoroughly enjoyed reading!). I’d love your thoughts behind what you wrote here: “I realized not only are most people not talking about infidelity, almost NO ONE is talking about it in the church. But I’m a church girl, and I can’t separate my personal life from my spiritual life. It’s all just my life.” What are your thoughts on the importance of breaking the silence in the church on this issue of infidelity that’s already claimed so many marriages? Do you think talking about it will help, and why?
SS: I think Christians put so much effort into reaching “lost” people, but once you are established in the church, there seems to be little grace for their own. I grew up in church around people who gossip, lose their tempers, and people who don’t really resemble Christ in general, really. But those things were looked over. But “big sins” like infidelity, people respond indignantly.
I found a lot of books and resources marketed toward women and men in Christian leadership. But since we weren’t in any position to lead, the lack of help provided to people struggling like we were, honestly made me feel un-prioritized in the church. I knew we weren’t alone. I knew others felt rejected in their situations too.
I love the church. So I didn’t want to become bitter and give up on her. When I read the Bible, I see the most useful characters all had brushes with “big sins” and God still not only used them, but shook their worlds, and they became strong figures in the Bible, and shaped the history of the church and culture.
Grace received in the state when you know you don’t deserve it, when it is lavished and undeserved, and it is still standing there after the dust settles and embraces you anyway, that changes a person. I hope to show people about real grace so that they can be changed, and in turn, help change the culture of the church and the world.
HG: Another great quote from your blogpost, Wonder: “I think there are two types of Christians. Those who embrace laying down their life for Christ, and bored ones.” Could you elaborate on how boredom was a factor in your husband’s affair, and also give thoughts as to how to actively fight the apathy many American Christians experience?
SS: I could describe my whole Christian life before the affair as “user error.” What I mean by that is, I gave my heart to Christ as a girl. I went to church, I served in church. But I had very little passion in actually going and doing. Jesus taught we should live our lives to build his kingdom. When we don’t know our purpose, what we are doing here on this earth, we get bored.
From AFL, “My downfall, what doomed my marriage, my biggest disaster, was not just the busyness of life, or even that I settled for the mundane. It was that in my heart I was not fully committed to God. I had wandered from my Creator. I had become satisfied apart from him. Then when my husband became satisfied apart from me, it doomed our marriage.”
Revelation 2:3-5 also talks about losing your first love. We were created to love our creator. I don’t think the human heart can truly be satisfied apart from him. When humans are not satisfied, we get restless, bored. We start trying to fill that void with other things.
But man, when you become in love with God, it sets your heart ablaze. I think we should live ablaze like that. We were created for so much more than Netflix and Canvas Parties.
HG: When I published my Viking novel, God’s Daughter, I had readers write to let me know they related to the main character, Gudrid, because she has an “absentee husband” and she struggles with looking around at the other men who love her in more tangible ways than her husband does. I really think portraying Christian women who battle lust/infidelity is the HUGEST “no-no” to talk about in Christian fiction circles. Men’s affairs are most often portrayed and treated as more “normal”. I’ve heard it said that’s because no one likes reading and relating to the girl who’s a husband-stealer. But honestly, isn’t this happening all the time in churches? I feel like women are struggling with temptation just as much as men. What are your thoughts on that?
SS: I do address this in the book! There is a chapter called “Crushing” it parallels how crushing the news was in the moments after my husband admitted to having an affair, but then also reveals how God shown a brilliant light of judgement on my own life where I had to get brutally honest. I too, had been crushing on a man outside of my marriage. I never acted on it, but I did enjoy the flirting. I had to be honest with my husband and told him that I understood being attracted to someone else during our marriage. I may not have had the affair but I definitely understood the temptation.
Listen, women are definitely not exempt from boredom setting in. We have to guard our hearts making sure God is our first love. If he’s not, we will begin trying to fill that void.
HG: Along those lines, in my 20 years of marriage, I’ve seen marriages that have faltered but held together, then I’ve seen others that have collapsed. Tell me more about what God called you to do when you discovered your husband had an affair.
SS: He spoke to me, Hope and Endure. This directed me to 1 Corinthians 13, which became what I’ve come to describe as my “Love Filter.”
These over-recited verses became the biggest challenge of my life under these new circumstances. We know these verses, but imagine God asking this of you under new circumstances, when someone is not loving you back. For me, it was after finding out my husband had cheated. “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7 NIV
These seemingly easy verses became a strict set of guidelines of behavior for me. I felt like God was challenging me to do these things very literally.
HG: Often, one spouse is desperate to better or save their marriage, while the other is apathetic. One spouse turns to the Lord and cries out, often for years, while the other might not even admit they’ve done anything wrong. Is this the kind of “fierce love” you talk about, and if so, how does this play out in the long run? What would you say to spouses who are crying to God and have seen no hope, repentance, or change for years?
SS: Well, first of all, I would never counsel a woman to stay or to go in that situation. What I do say in my book, “We have an obligation to sit before God and listen to what he says about our story.” I don’t think God would have told me to hope and endure in my marriage if he knew it was irreparable.
We don’t just have to go to a pastor to ask advice, or to a book, or a therapist to tell us what to do. Those are all good ideas to turn to, but FIRST, Hebrews 4:16 says, “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” God knows your future, and he is for you. I believe he can whisper to his own in the quiet, he gave us the Holy Spirit as a helper. We are well equipped to do hard things, including obedience.
The crumbling of a marriage can make one feel hopeless, destroyed, and unloved. (Click to Tweet!) But as children of God we are none of those things. We can’t be a victim when we have access to all that He is. You have hope. You are not destroyed. And you are so loved.
HG: Thank you SO much for coming, Shauna. I appreciate your openness and honesty today. I will be doing all I can to get the word out on your book!
***Readers, be sure to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway below for your own chance to win a softcover copy of A Fierce Love by Shauna Shanks!***