One of the questions I often get is why did I call book one in The Cold War Legacy series The Dark Guest? It came from a very unlikely source.
As a reformed Presbyterian (PCA), I’ve become more acquainted with the Puritans and their writings. Titles like The Mystery of Providence and The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment have brought fresh understanding to modern-day troubles. The Banner of Truth Trust publishers have brought many of these little gems back to life through reprints.
Among those is a lovely book of Puritan prayers called The Valley of Vision. My husband and I read the book together for family devotions before we had kids. According to the back cover copy, “The strength of Puritan character and life lay in prayer and meditation.” This collection of prayers, written in poem form, are gathered “from the largely forgotten deposit of Puritan spiritual exercises, meditations and aspirations. They testify to the richness and colour of evangelical thought and language that animated vital piety in an important stream of English religious life,” as the preface states.
One of the poem-prayers, grouped under the section called “Penitence and Deprecation,” was entitled “The Dark Guest.” The poem talks about how sin becomes the dark guest within us but grace, through the cross, provides deliverance.
When I first read this prayer-poem, I thought the title would make a wonderful romantic suspense book title because of the way sin causes all sorts of chaos in our lives. When the idea for the plot came to me, I knew immediately The Dark Guest would work as the title because of the long secrets my hero and heroine uncover.
My story shows what happens when we allow sin to stay as a guest in our hearts. A guest implies we welcomed sin in, and at times, this is very true of us. If we don’t evict the “guest,” he will take up permanent residence and demand more and more of us. In my story, Violet and Henry must confront the sin in their own hearts that have taken up residence, as well as combat the long shadow sin can cast on others when sin is allowed to fester for years.
Here’s “The Dark Guest” from The Valley of Vision.
Bend my hands and cut them off,
for I have often struck thee with a wayward will,
when these fingers should embrace thee by faith.
I am not yet weaned from all created glory,
honour, wisdom, and esteem of others,
for I have a secret motive to eye my name in all I do.
Let me not only speak the word sin, but see the thing itself.
Give me to view a discovered sinfulness,
to know that though my sins are crucified
they are never wholly mortified.
Hatred, malice, ill-will,
vain-glory that hungers for and hunts after
man’s approval and applause,
all are crucified, forgiven,
but they rise again in my sinful heart.
O my crucified but never wholly mortified sinfulness!
O my life-long damage and daily shame!
O my indwelling and besetting sins!
O the tormenting slavery of a sinful heart!
Destroy, O God, the dark guest within
whose hidden presence makes my life a hell.
Yet though has not left me here without grace;
The cross still stands and meets my needs
in the deepest straits of the soul.
I thank thee that my remembrance of it
is like David’s sight of Goliath’s sword
which preached forth thy deliverance.
The memory of my great sins, my many temptations, my falls,
bring afresh into my mind the remembrance
of they great help, of they support from heaven,
of the great grace that saved such a wretch as I am.
There is no treasure so wonderful
as that continuous experience of thy grace toward me
which alone can subdue the risings of sin within:
Give me more of it.