It seems very obvious that becoming a Christian really changed your life.


(photo: ©Elaina Burdo)

So, how did you get there? If you were in the secular market writing, just doing your thing, how did you get to Christ? How did you and He find each other?

FRANCINE: Well, Rick and I were really struggling in our marriage. When we moved to northern California, Rick was starting his own business, and I stayed in southern California until the children were finished with their school year.

He was looking for a place for us to live in Sebastopol, where he started, because we wanted to also be closer to family. We thought if we were closer to family that would help. He found the only rental house at the last minute, and when we moved in, on each side of us were Christian families.

On the first day we were moving in, a little boy about eight years old kept coming over and pestering us, wanting to help us move in. I think Rick finally gave him a box of shoes or something and [the little boy’s] saying, “Have I got a church for you!” Then the other lady with apple pie was talking to us, and I thought ‘I’m desperate enough to try anything, even church.’

To back up, Rick and I had been attending a church in southern California, but I think Jesus had left the building. They were not focusing on the Gospel. There were a lot of things going on in that church.

Rick ended up actually being the Chairman of the Board of Trustees and he wasn’t a Christian. They didn’t know he wasn’t a Christian. We didn’t know we weren’t Christians.

I mean, if your parents were Christians, you tend to think well, I’m a Christian, too. And they say God doesn’t have any grandchildren. It’s a decision each person has to make.

When we moved north, Rick said ‘I want nothing to do with the church.’ He’d seen the inner workings of that [previous] church.

So, I started a few weeks later. I thought I’m desperate enough to try anything, otherwise we’re going to end up in a divorce. So, I started going to church; and when I walked in everybody was so welcoming and loving.

And then the pastor was teaching out of the Word of God about the book of Ephesians. And starting at chapter one, verse one, ‘Here’s what the historical context is—what the Scripture actually means, and how does it apply to your life today.’

That’s what I’ve been looking for. It really was working on me.

I wanted Rick to come, but he was saying no, thanks. I thought, if I can’t get him to church, then I’d talk to the pastor. ‘Can we have a home Bible study?’ He said, ‘If it’s all right with your husband, sure.’

So, we started a home Bible study, which is still going now, and Rick is teaching it. Over 30 years, we’ve had a home Bible study.

That’s amazing!

FRANCINE: That’s what really made the difference. We were going through the gospels. We were going through topical studies. We studied baptism.

So, we both decided we needed to be baptized. We were baptized together, and that really began the change in our marriage. I remember we sat down with the kids and told them, ‘You’ve heard a lot of yelling and shouting at each other. We’re not getting a divorce. You’ll still hear us arguing about things but we’re staying together.’

We are together. And the kids remember that. They just say, ‘You two are such a strong couple’ because we’ve worked things through.

That’s an amazing testimony.

FRANCINE: Yeah. Rick was not raised in the church. I was. And we actually were friends from the time we were in fifth grade. And that friendship I think is what really held us together for a long time.

He went to Vietnam. He was a marine in Vietnam and my brother was serving at the same time and was captured during the Tet Offensive. It was 1967… my brother was found, very badly wounded. Rick’s mother wrote to him every day the whole time he was serving overseas … Rick wrote to me in college and said ‘you’re really lucky to get your brother back’, and we just started a correspondence back and forth. He came home in December of 1968, and we were married a year later in December 1969.

So, we had we had a lot of issues. I brought in my issues from college—including the abortion—and Rick came in with all the issues of what he suffered when he was in Vietnam.

We had we had enough flotsam to sink a ship, you know, to work through. But we’ve been married now 51 years.

Getting to that place where in your books you’re dealing with really hard issues, with prostitution, with abortion, with abuse. These are topics that make people uneasy.

FRANCINE: Yeah, but it’s real life. Jesus can be in the midst of anything and turn anything to good.

I think about as an example, the abortion experience. It kept me trapped for years. I lost our first baby and then we had our son. I lost another child, had our daughter, and then lost another child before we had our third son.

So, that was constantly in my mind that at that time. I was thinking, ‘God is only taking away from me what I took from Him.’ And, of course, that was not the truth. So I was looking for ‘Is there such a thing as forgiveness?’ because I wasn’t experiencing it. I wasn’t feeling it even though I was a Christian.

It took the writing of that book to realize that we have to learn to accept the forgiveness and forgive ourselves. That’s one of the things that I learned in the writing of that story.

We’d been married I think about 25 years at the time, and Rick didn’t know a lot of that before we got married. So we got re-married in typical California fashion, we went out to the beach. Our kids were almost grown.

Then one was thinking about getting married and we just said, ‘Don’t have any secrets before you get married.’

And we re-did our wedding ceremony on the beach. And the kids really learned from that, I think.

I know one of the couples, they wrote down everything. They shared it with one another, and then they just burned it in a fire. You know, ‘That’s the past, we’re moving on together.’ But that was a really healing experience.

In writing—especially when you’re writing Christian fiction—we need to deal with the real issues of life.

God can enter into any of those situations and He can turn it for good. If I hadn’t written that book, I wouldn’t be able to talk about that issue.

I heard from a lot of people about that book, and how it brought healing to them. God turned that bad experience to good. And in the process of writing it, He brought healing to me, too. So, we have to trust him.

All the things I thought might happen with that story, didn’t. I thought I was going to get persecuted and criticized and all kinds of stuff and none of that happened.

It actually brought a number of letters of women sharing their stories about what they had been through. So, whatever God gives us to do, He equips us to do, and it’s miraculous what He can do.

Like with Redeeming Love, I didn’t make the connection with sex trafficking when I was writing it. I remember reading a story in a women’s magazine and I had a picture of a little girl who had been taken—they had a picture of her, like a school picture—a perfect little picture of this beautiful little girl. And then they had confiscated a pornographic film at, she was the same age and she was terrified you could just see on her face the terror.

And then you saw her a few years later, and her demeanor was totally different. So, I had those pictures on my bulletin board, and I kept thinking ‘I’m writing for that little girl, wherever she is.’

But this story is to tell her, no matter what’s happened to you, no matter what you’ve been through, no matter what you’ve done, God loves you and He can redeem you and He can restore you and He can build your life in a way you never, ever expected.

That’s the power of Christian fiction. To show how God is involved in every aspect of our lives.

And it works even better when we cooperate! [Laughter] We say, ‘Welcome, please renovate me! Please remake me and transform me into the woman you intended me to be.’ Because His plan’s a lot better than any plan I’ve ever had.

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About The Author

Francine Rivers' Christian novels have been awarded or nominated for numerous honors, including the RITA Award, Christy Award, ECPA Gold Medallion, and Holt Medallion in Honor of Outstanding Literary Talent. In 1997, she was inducted into the Romance Writers of America's Hall of Fame. Francine and husband Rick live in northern California and enjoy time with their three grown children and their grandchildren.