Novelist Falls for a Love She Never Saw Coming

Tessa Afshar was born in Iran. As she shares, “I was a very thoughtful, serious child. I grew up believing that all faiths were more or less the same. It was a man-made thing; it answered our needs. And I just wasn't one of those people who needed it.”

Growing up, Tessa says, “I adored my dad. I felt my dad really felt the same about me. But at the same time my dad was a very busy man. He wasn't home very often. I knew he loved me – there was never a doubt in my mind. But I wasn't quite sure that I was enough, and so, I learned to strive to be lovable.”

“By the time I was a teenager,” she admits, “there was a profound sense of loneliness that had settled in my heart. Because of my parents divorce, my mom, my sister and I went to England; my father remained in Iran. Our communication was very limited. With the revolution and everything, it almost became impossible. I couldn't go back, and so the world came between us. But my heart didn't fully understand that, didn't grasp that. What I grasped was, ‘My Daddy's not here. If my Daddy wanted to be here, he would make a way.’ So I lost my family. I lost my home. I lost my language. I made this vow that I myself would never divorce, because I saw the price of it in my heart.”  

When Tessa moved to England, she started attending a boarding school for young ladies. “We were told that we had to attend church. They told those of us who are from a different faith background we could sit on the balcony and read our own faith books. I used to sneak romance novels under my uniform, but also more literary kind, like the Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte's. That ultimate story about a person who's rejected from childhood for no fault of her own, and someone admired by everybody else, someone recognized as mighty and good finally looks at her and sees her worth. That was the story my heart was hungry for. It was all responding to this need – a core need for someone to see me exactly as I was and still love me and absolutely and utterly find me worthy, worthy of pursuit, worthy of love.”

For college, Tessa ventured to the U.S. There, she met a young man and fell in love. “Some 21 year olds are quite mature, that wasn't us. Within a few years you could see the cracks in our maturity reflected in our marriage. And when that marriage essentially ended, I came into a very dark place. My formula for life proved faulty – if I was good enough, if I was smart enough, if I worked hard enough, if I was enough, that then I could happy. And that hadn't worked.”

Not long after that, Tessa shares she had a dream about Jesus. “And what's really amazing about that dream is the only time I went to church really was those years when I was in boarding school and I was sitting upstairs and reading romance novels. I never heard the gospel, I never read the Bible. But this is the thing, I knew he was the Son of God. I knew it absolutely. And when he came closer, I looked into his eyes, and in those eyes I saw something I will never see in this world. The measure of love that put him on the cross, and the depth of power that made the stars, they shown through those eyes. And I almost fell on my knees because I couldn't stand anymore. And He just went like (GESTURING) this to me. And I knew what he meant was ‘follow me.’  And he wasn't just saying ‘Follow me a few steps.’ He was saying, ‘Follow me.’ And I would have done anything.

Tessa woke up from the dream not a Christian. As she shares, “I still didn’t know what the Gospel was. Jesus Himself hadn’t told me the Gospel. But I woke up with an unshakable peace. Very quickly after that the Lord surrounded me with Christians; they all invited me to church, they invited me to Bible study, and for the first time in my life, I began to hear the gospel, read the Bible. And I thought, ‘What's all this? Give me a list of dos and don'ts that will fix my life.’ That's what I was looking for. And so I didn't fully understand. But the people around me I understood, they were different.”

Then, a few days later, while attending a conference, Tessa spoke with an old priest. “He came to me, and he said, ‘When are you going to come to Christ, Tessa?’ All the thoughts in my head were some kind of answer to just swat away that question. So I opened my mouth to do that very thing, and do you know what came out of my mouth? What came out of my mouth was, ‘I already do.’ And as the words came out of my mouth I realized, ‘I do believe. He asked me to follow Him himself, and I do with all my heart.’”   

Tessa shares that in that moment, she found the love she had always been looking for. “God – He is someone greater than other men. He is the King of kings. And He pursues us. He was the one who saw me, this faulty, average, fallen young girl, and he set his affections on me. My worth isn't in what I do. My worth is that Jesus calls me his beloved.”


Check out Tessa's historical romances and religious fiction here.

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