It was with great, great sadness that I learned Chuck Colson died this weekend. Some of you may know my connection to him (I’ve shared the story before), but in this sacred time of remembrance, I felt it important to share again.
I never met Chuck Colson.
Never shook his hand.
Never shared a meal.
But he had a profound impact on my writing life. Just by doing one simple, handwritten act.
On May 23, 2000,I heard Chuck deliver a Breakpoint entitled “Uncle Tom’s Cabin: The Power of Story.” Click the link to read it. I had been so stunned and struck by his words, that I ordered the transcript. One thing he said was “I know when it comes to learning moral lessons, I’ve often been much more affected by works of fiction than by abstract theological discourses.” He spoke of the story’s power to transform culture, something that resonated so deeply in me, I could physically feel the stirring in my chest. In that moment, I knew.
I would, God willing, write novels like that.
A little bit later, I wrote Chuck a letter, thanking him for a book he wrote. Also included was my desire to someday write those novels that changed the world, my words laced and soaked with hope, fear, anticipation. I wondered, even, if I should write such a bold thing to a stranger. A famous stranger. I hadn’t written a book yet. I’d published a few small articles, but that was about it. The dream, though burning, seemed unreachable.
Chuck Colson sent back a standard typed thank you. But scribbled on the bottom of the business letters were these words:
“Keep writing. God will honor your faithfulness.”
I kept that letter. Re-read those seven words over and over. Reminded myself that God would honor the hours, days, months, years I spent at the keyboard.
And eventually, I wrote and published those novels. Novels I hoped would change the world.
Fast forward to September 7, 2009. Imagine my complete surprise when a friend called me and said, “I heard about your book on Breakpoint today.”
I jumped over to Breakpoint, clicked on that day’s message entitled Daisy Chain: Protecting the Least of These from Abuse, and listened. And cried. And remembered those words, “Keep writing. God will honor your faithfulness.”
God had brought Chuck’s encouraging (and prophetic) words full circle. In the broadcast, he said, “I’m not a big fan of ‘message’ books where the writer neglects his or her craft and just concentrates on pushing an agenda. But Mary DeMuth is not that kind of writer. Her books are beautifully and sensitively written, and her characters are realistic and well developed. She has a true gift for showing go God’s light can penetrate even the darkest of situations, and start to turn lives around. Even her villains are not beyond the reach of God’s grace.”
I cried when I heard those words.
Cried because Chuck Colson (unknowingly) had bookended my writing journey, by offering a simple note of encouragement at just the right time, and praising the words I finally wept on the page.
I know there must be thousands of stories like this. And I know that was Chuck Colson’s heart: to deeply encourage folks with dreams for a better life. For people who hoped to change the world. He changed mine.
Thank you, Chuck. The words don’t seem enough today.
Mary DeMuth, author of The Muir House and many other books, is a contributor to FaithVillage. Follow her on Twitter@marydemuth.