One of my favorite quotes by Joy Davidman is,
“If we should ever grow brave, what on earth would become of us."
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Fear of the unknown and fear of change are some of the greatest struggles we will ever face.
How can we possibly leave behind what’s familiar to us? How will we know where to go next? What will happen to us and our loved ones? It can be terrifying, lonely, and confusing. Today’s guests share how they found the courage to make a change, which led them to freedom and joy like they had never experienced. Human trafficking survivor and activist Rebecca Bender opens up about the life she was manipulated into and how, by listening to God’s voice and the strong spirit that He gave her, she found a way out. Novelist Patti Callahan Henry shares how she left her job as a nurse to become a writer, and the story she wrote about C.S. Lewis’ wife, Joy, who also took a leap of faith that led her to a love that she never could’ve imagined for herself. If you’re considering making a change in your life, remember this: it is in the uncomfortable and the unfamiliar that we grow and have an opportunity to depend on God like never before. And He has plans for hope and a future for each one of us.
Links, Products and Resources Mentioned:
Jesus Calling Podcast
Jesus Calling books
Jesus Calling book
Jesus Calling: The Jesus Calling Magazine
Jesus Calling for Kids at Barnes & Noble (PINK and BLUE versions)
Rebecca Bender Initiative
In Pursuit of Love: One Woman’s Journey from Trafficked to Triumphant book
National U.S. Trafficking Hotline: 1 (888) 373-7888 to get help today
Patti Callahan Henry
Becoming Mrs. Lewis: The Improbable Love Story of Joy Davidman and C.S. Lewis book
Behind the Scenes of Becoming Mrs. Lewis [Podcast]
Yale Younger Poets Award
American Idol finalist Dave Pittman
”I felt like an outsider, which pushed me, I think, even further away from wanting to be a part of a community of faith.” - Rebecca Bender
”You can't imagine going back to hopelessness, so you choose to look the other way because you really want the dream that's being dangled in front of you.” - Rebecca Bender
“I was so, so filled with knowing that I could hear the voice of the Lord, the voice of the Creator of the universe who chose to talk to me, and that really kept me through some of my darkest times.” - Rebecca Bender
“This is my favorite part about God: how He breaks off chains, He breaks up shame. He can completely redo our lives.” - Rebecca Bender
“You have to be real with God. He knows what you're thinking, and He knows even more than you do what's happening in your brain and in your mind and your heart. So just crying out to Him helps really shift and give you some revelation and helps you take your eyes off of your circumstance to see what He has in store.” - Rebecca Bender
“What I love about the work that God allows me to do today is not only do we get to bring justice for the victim . . . but I love that it's also creating constant change in the community.” - Rebecca Bender
”You know, Jesus loves girls like me—we’re all over the Bible. Put the shame on who should own the shame, which is the perpetrators.” - Rebecca Bender
“[My faith] transforms, and it transforms me. As long as it's always about the indwelling God, I feel fairly safe in my faith.” - Patti Callahan Henry
“I do believe that it was the first time Joy ever truly loved, and it's because she first found her true self in God.” - Patti Callahan Henry
”We might need to pack up everybody's expectations and everybody's demands and everybody's definitions of us.” - Patti Callahan Henry
“My favorite quote by Joy is, ‘If we should ever grow brave, what on earth would become of us?’" - Patti Callahan Henry
Narrator: For decades, the world has been captivated by the writings of 20th century British writer and theologian C.S. Lewis, including novelist Patti Callahan Henry. As Patti grew curious about one of her favorite writers, she found herself wanting to learn more about his mysterious wife, Joy Davidman. After years of research, Patti wanted to tell Joy’s story and wrote a fictionalized account of her life called Becoming Mrs. Lewis: The Improbable Love Story of Joy Davidman and C.S. Lewis. Patti walks us through her journey through writing and introduces us to the remarkable life of Joy Davidman and her remarkable story with C.S. Lewis.
Patti Callahan Henry
I am Patti Callahan Henry, I also write under Patti Callahan. I’m a novelist. I’m a nurse turned novelist, a real believer in the power of story. I live in Birmingham, Alabama most of the time, but spend another majority of the time in Bluffton, South Carolina.
Early Years and Dreams
Up until I was twelve years old, I grew up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. My dad was a Presbyterian pastor. You know, being in the middle of a church like that and watching, I saw the constant human drama: the ups, the downs, the marriages, the deaths, the dissolutions, the infighting, the behind the scenes. I don’t know, but I do guess, that it helped shape me as a writer, because I was constantly exposed to the human dilemma, to what faith and being a human being meant in our daily lives—and not just in my family, but my parents were constantly dealing with the crises of other families, too. And I was observing it. I was a watcher.
When I was a kid, faith was the facts. You know, [faith was] the ten points or the things that you listed that you must believe in. I was always questioning, and I was very strong willed—or so I was told. So I think that my faith isn’t as settled and a for-sure set of beliefs like it was when I was young. Now, my faith is more of a mystery.
I think if I had stayed there with this “settled and for sure” [faith], it would have prevented growth.I think we have to have faith in this God that’s in dwelling and accessible. But the grown up part of that faith for me is that that’s okay. That is okay for me. I don’t have to feel guilty or bad or wrong because [my faith] evolves—it evolves and changes. And I love this word transforms. [My faith] transforms, and it transforms me. As long as it’s always about the indwelling God, I feel fairly safe in my faith.
“[My faith] transforms, and it transforms me. As long as it’s always about the indwelling God, I feel fairly safe in my faith.”— Patti Callahan Henry
I did really want to be a nurse. I went to Auburn University and was a pediatric nurse. I received my master’s degree in child health. I was a clinical nurse specialist in pediatrics. I loved it. But I was also always scribbling, still always taking notes, totally involved in the power of story, a fascination with mythology. And when my kids were very young—I had three kids in five years, they were five, three, and new—I decided that I was going to try and write only one book, that I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it. I also wanted to dive into the art that had sustained me all those years.It was pure fright. I had to tell myself no one would ever read it. There are parts of it nobody has ever read. I mean, I went back to school, I took some classes, I entered contests. I was rejected and knocked down. And it was definitely an act of perseverance and faith—a different kind of faith, but a faith.
Reflections on Writing and Faith
I think I was always a writer. I wrote from the time I could hold a crayon. I have little notebooks and stories tucked away in the attic. I have kept a journal since time began. For me I’m a big believer in solitude and quiet.
I think everybody would say this about Jesus Calling, but often, It’s played pivotal roles at different moments in my life. More often than not, when you open it and read for that day, it’s what you needed that day, which is kind of astounding because sometimes you won’t pick it up for a long while and then you’ll read that day and be like, Whoa, there you go.[This is the] Jesus Calling [passage from] April 19th.
I love you regardless of how well you are performing. Sometimes you feel uneasy, wondering if you are doing enough to be worthy of My Love. No matter how exemplary your behavior, the answer to that question will always be no. Your performance and My Love are totally different issues, which you need to sort out. I love you with an everlasting Love that flows out from eternity without limits or conditions. I have clothed you in My robe of righteousness, and this is an eternal transaction: Nothing and no one can reverse it. Therefore, your accomplishment as a Christian has no bearing on My Love for you. Even your ability to assess how well you are doing on a given day is flawed. Your limited human perspective and the condition of your body, with its mercurial variations, distort your evaluations. Bring your performance anxiety to Me, and receive in its place My unfailing Love. Try to stay conscious of My loving Presence with you in all that you do, and I will direct your steps.
An Improbable Love Story
Becoming Mrs. Lewis
Becoming Mrs. Lewis is my first historical and my fourteenth novel. I have been a C.S. Lewis reader all of my life. And what I was fascinated with, which is the subtitle of the book, is Their Improbable Love Story. As soon as I started to research that improbable love story, I instead found a fascinating and fiery woman who had so transformed her life that it changed her heart and her family and her work. And then, of course, that transformed the heart and the life and the work and the family of one of our most beloved authors of the 20th century.
When I say improbable, what I mean is that here we had this married ex-atheist, ex-communist, former Jewish heritage, married-with-two-kids woman living in upstate New York. And then over here, you have also a former atheist, but one of the premier Christian apologists of his day, Oxford don, living in England. He had never left Ireland or England for all of his life, except for the six months he was in the war in France. And she had never left New York for all of her life, except for the six months she wrote screenplays in Hollywood. How were these two people to have ever met, much less become friends, much less fall in love and marry? Forget about it. Right?
[Joy Davidman] was born to immigrant parents, Russian Eastern European immigrant parents. She was born in a part of New York that was called the Jewish ghetto or the Jewish Highway, and they eventually worked their way up in the world. Her father was a principal. They eventually worked their way up into the Bronx, but she was not a child of privilege by any means. She was privileged because she lived in America. But she went to a public college tuition free. They didn’t have money when she graduated. She had to live with her family.
If I speak about Joy, I think what happened with her is that she had this mystical experience that she would not let go. She wanted to find out what it meant. She wanted to find out an answer or answers to this mystery of what happened to her, that in her words, she said that she realized life was too intense to be endured with logic alone or to be endured with flesh and blood. And so she went in search of what this meant, of what was beyond logic, something that would satisfy her heart, her intellect and her experience. And that’s when she first started writing to Lewis.She wrote to him for answers. She wrote to him because she wanted to figure out what this meant. And she felt that he was the smartest person she had ever read, and that his work and his words really hit her in a place that nobody else has had. And he didn’t answer all her questions in his book. So she thought, I’m gonna reach out to him. And she did. She wrote to him. And that started three years of pen friendship before she ever boarded a ship to sail to England.And I always say, “And that’s when this story gets really good.”
The Transformative Power of Love
There are so many things that struck me that I didn’t see coming with their story. The first is her intelligence. I hadn’t heard anybody talk about that. Every time I had heard about her before I started writing this book, I had heard about her as “the poor dying wife of C.S. Lewis, the woman who broke his heart.” And when I started to understand who she was and her genius and her intelligence and her forthrightness and her fiery spirit, I was taken aback, because it had been hidden from me and hidden from us behind C.S. Lewis’s shadow.Joy was a child prodigy. She was brilliant. She won the Yale Younger Poets Award. She was incredibly well read. She was a genius. And that armor stood in the way of finding her true self. And once that happened and she was able to love herself, then I believe she was able to love another person in a way that allowed him to love her in return. I do believe that it was the first time Joy ever truly loved, and it’s because she first found her true self in God. I was struck hard as a writer by how much she had contributed to his work and how little credit she had been given for that.
“I do believe that it was the first time Joy ever truly loved, and it’s because she first found her true self in God.” – Patti Callahan Henry
I was struck by their immense love for each other, even when it wasn’t romantic. Their immense and profound support and acceptance of each other just as they were. If you read her poetry and you look at her married poetry verses, you know, she’s quite obviously—but we don’t know for sure—talking about Lewis, she never is wanting him to be a different man. She wants him to feel differently about her, but she doesn’t want to change him. There is this acceptance. One of her poems talks about “the gold of him, of who he is.” And I think that’s very much the way he and his brother Warnie felt about her. And those things struck me very hard.
She was brave and she was willing. I always say, you know, we might not all need to pack up our kids and move to England, but we might need to pack up everybody’s expectations and everybody’s demands and everybody’s definitions of us. And that is what she was willing to do.
”We might need to pack up everybody’s expectations and everybody’s demands and everybody’s definitions of us.” – Patti Callahan Henry
Transformation is the heart of the novel. That is why the title is Becoming. They both show us that the quest for truth is worth the complicated and convoluted path of changing our life, and that the quest for love is worth the convoluted and complicated and hard and dissonant path of changing our lives. Because if you put Joy’s journey down on paper, it doesn’t look like everything got better, just because she went on a quest for the truth and for love and for God. But if you look at the bigger picture, it was worth it.
My favorite quote by Joy is, “If we should ever grow brave, what on earth would become of us?” And I love that question for the two words that are stuck in that sentence, which are grow and become. “If we should ever grow brave, what should become of us?” I love that because it means we’re not stagnant. We’re not stuck as we are, that there is this chance for change, and that if we grow brave, we can become and grow.
“My favorite quote by Joy is, ‘If we should ever grow brave, what on earth would become of us?’” – Patti Callahan Henry
Find out more about Patti's journey, visit her Videos page, Resource Center, Becoming Mrs. Lewis page, Behind the Scenes of Becoming Mrs. Lewis Podcast Collection, and Podcast Audiobook available now.
Look for the Expanded Edition of Becoming Mrs. Lewis Paperback Coming March 24, 2020.
Narrator: You can find Patti’s book Becoming Mrs. Lewis, or listen to more of Joy Davidman’s story in the podcast Behind the Scenes of Becoming Mrs. Lewis at PattiCallahanHenry.com.
Related Post: Jesus Calling Podcast: Read the entire Podcast: Growing Brave to Become More with Rebecca Bender and Author Patti Callahan Henry
Jesus Calling Podcast
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