The Shaping of my Soul
It was in the city of Vancouver where it really started. It was in a little basement honeymoon suite about 20 minutes from Stanley Park where I read the book that pulled it all together for me.
We had just married. I was 21. We were working off our Bible School debts in Vancouver - Cliff in construction and I as an assistant accountant for an insurance company right next to Hotel Vancouver.
We had fallen in love in our third year of Bible School. Cliff was Student President and I was the Yearbook Editor which meant that we had spent a great deal of time on committees together. He was an artist - and I was a "wanna be" writer. It was an easy, beautiful connection - and falling in love was natural and every bit as romantic as I had hoped.
But once the wedding was over, neither one of us knew how to pursue our "unique" dreams. I remember our long discussions about our goals for the future. Eventually Cliff decided that he would rather pursue a career in ministry - which was so much easier to chart than a career in the arts - and I would support him.
Meanwhile I would retain my "closet writer" identity. But by now I had outgrown the first writer I emulated -- Grace Livingston Hill - as well as many others. I needed a new model as a writer - a Christian, historical, romance-based writer.
I found a book by Lloyd C. Douglas. I was familiar with Lloyd C. Douglas because copies of his books were in our church library.
According to his biography, Lloyd Cassel Douglas was an American minister and author. Douglas' first book, Magnificent Obsession, appeared in 1929 and became a huge success. Douglas was one of the most popular American authors of his time, although he did not write his first novel until he was 50.
After receiving the A.M. degree from Wittenberg College in Springfield, Ohio, in 1903, Douglas was ordained in the Lutheran ministry. He served in pastorates in North Manchester, Indiana, Lancaster, Ohio, and Washington, D.C. From 1911 to 1915, he was director of religious work at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The next six years, he was minister of The First Congregational Church in Ann Arbor, Michigan, from there moving to Akron, Ohio, and serving as the Sr. Minister of the First Congregational Church of Akron from 1920–26 then to Los Angeles, California and finally to St. James United Church in Montreal, Quebec, from which pulpit he retired to write. His biographer, Louis Sheaffer, comments, "he never stated publicly why he changed denominations."
His written works were of a moral, didactic, and distinctly religious tone. His first novel, Magnificent Obsession, published in 1929, was an immediate and sensational success. Critics held that his type of fiction was in the tradition of the great religious writings of an earlier generation, such as Ben-Hur and Quo Vadis. Douglas then wrote Forgive Us Our Trespasses; Precious Jeopardy; Green Light; White Banners; Disputed Passage; Invitation To Live; Doctor Hudson's Secret Journal; The Robe, and The Big Fisherman. The Robe sold more than 2 million copies, without any reprint edition. Douglas sold the motion picture rights to this story, though the film, starring Richard Burton, was not released until 1953, after Douglas's death.
I remember reading The Big Fisherman when it first came out while still living at home. I was so impressed. I thought Douglas was a genius writer - a christian-based Shakespeare.
So when I found another one of his books while living in Vancouver that first year of our marriage, I devoured it. It was a copy of his book, White Banners. This time his book wasn't about a man's world. It was about a woman, living in a woman's world, exploring women issues.
It had a profound affect on me at that time - PROFOUND!
I remember it shaped the very interior of my soul.
It rearranged me.
It launched me.
Years later, I could still remember the impact but not the real reasons why.... I didn't even remember the plot or the issues as clearly as I remember the profound impact it had on me. But I did remember that one of the main issues of the book was "non-resistance" - an old term for a "forgiving lifestyle." And I did remember the poignant love story that had explored it all in a new way....
I knew that if I was to reconstruct my forgiveness, faith and writers journey, I needed to reread that book.
So I picked it up again in 2013, after the trial. What a shock. I discovered to my chagrin that it wasn't great at all. The writing wasn't superior as I had thought. In fact it was the worst book I had read in a long time. It was one-dimensional, didactic and written with a strange out-of-date lingo.
I was experiencing the same thing I had when I revisited our homestead- everything had shrunk in size. Everything seemed old - and not as grand. I had grown up - the homestead hadn't changed.
So at first I was extremely disappointed wondering what I had seen in the book. And it took me a long time to get into it - and to ignore the writing - and realize again what it was all about.
I also had to remember what I was like at 21 years old -- living in that amazing big city - trying to figure out how I would live my life. I also remembered what a romantic, idealistic person I was back then.
“Once in everyone's life there is apt to be a period when he is fully awake, instead of half-asleep.”
― E.B. White