Imagine that weeks before your wedding, you walked in on your fiancé, an upstanding Christian man, watching pornography.

That’s the premise of One Last Thing, a novel from Rebecca St. James and Nancy Rue. St. James is best known as a Grammy-winning Christian singer; Rue is the author of several novels for both adolescents and adults. Their latest book resonates with me as a Christian woman on the dating scene—and one who recently wrote about the pervasive problem of pornography among Christians.

Porn use has become so commonplace that some people think Christian women should stop regarding it as a deal-breaker in dating, lest they end up with no husband at all. St. James and Rue tackle this idea head-on in their story. When Tara Faulkner discovers her fiancé’s secret habit, she’s ripped out of her fantasies of the perfect wedding and the happily-ever-after marriage, and faced with the kind of decision she’s never had to face.

St. James and Rue take a risk in presenting us with this spoiled young Southern belle of a protagonist, whose obsession with having the best of everything—from the best furniture to the best house to the best husband—makes her initially unappealing. But it’s a risk that pays off. Forced to rebuild her world from scratch, Tara has to come to terms with her own immaturity and the weakness of her faith in God.

Ironically, Seth, her fiancé, was always the one who acted as spiritual leader and set the sexual boundaries in their relationship. (Tara once thought he held to his stance on premarital abstinence because he respected her; eventually he confesses that it’s because, after watching so much porn, he’s come to conflate sex with abuse.)

Tara has to figure out what she really believes and what she’s willing to give up for those beliefs. And she has to figure it out fast. With the wedding approaching, Seth swears her to secrecy about his porn addiction—it might jeopardize his career in a prominent Christian ministry—leaving her without the support of family and friends, who are confused by the sudden change in her. (As a recent article at The Gospel Coalition suggested, a plotline about a man with such a job having a porn habit is all too realistic.)

The authors have a gift for creating realistic characters and putting them into morally complex and troubling situations. They don’t get preachy, but they do handle the issues raised in a specifically Christian way. I doubt any contemporary secular novel would portray pornography as a moral evil in the way that this one does. The novel’s Christian underpinning gives the characters room to feel horror, disgust, and heartbreak about porn—all the emotions that our sex-obsessed society, in my experience, urges us not to feel about explicit depictions of sex.

Still, there are no pat Christian answers here. Seth wants to say a few prayers, go to a counseling session, and be healed; Tara wants to believe that can work. Surprise—it doesn’t. Seth still wants to go ahead with the wedding: “Everything is going to be different after we’re married,” he tells Tara. “I’ll have you. We’ll have us. I won’t need…that.” But Tara has begun to realize that there’s something much deeper and darker at work here—something that can’t be wished away. They both have to find healing: Tara for her sense of betrayal, Seth for the pain that he’s been trying to numb with his porn use. Tara’s deepest instincts tell her that they can’t find that healing together. Romance—especially the kind of blind, unquestioning relationship they once had—is not a cure for deep-seated spiritual and emotional illness.

I was particularly struck by the role of Tara’s bridesmaids, who function much as Job’s comforters did. When Seth’s secret leaks out and Tara finally talks with her friends about it, they react in drastically different ways. One, Jacqueline, thinks she should go ahead with the wedding; another, Alyssa, is vehemently against it. She’s known so many seemingly nice guys who wanted her to watch porn with them that she’s sickened by the whole thing. She threatens to withdraw her friendship if Tara marries Seth.

What Tara needs is neither of these kinds of reactions, but real friendship: the kind of deep, trusting, supportive friendship that will see her through anything. When she impulsively takes a job at a coffee shop—her first real job—she starts to find such friendships among her co-workers and customers. They offer sympathy and understanding, letting her know that it’s okay to grieve for her lost hopes, helping her face shock after shock as she discovers more not only about Seth, but also about the secrets of others she’s loved and trusted. It’s only after many weeks of this that she becomes strong enough to be able to grieve for Seth too, and to offer him her friendship and support in turn.

One Last Thing contains strong writing and offers an alternative vision for how women especially can help those they love grapple with porn. St. James and Rue give us a picture of what it looks like when the church recognizes the depth of evil and realizes that a hurting person can’t handle it alone—when loved ones surround us and walk us through the pain and darkness, until the light begins to dawn.

If today’s church would do more of this, we’d worry less about presenting a front and instead become the kind of place that would draw in hurting people, a true reflection of the Light of the World. It may not be easy to imagine, but this book offers a place to start.

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