"Where The Light Fell: A Memoir" by Philip Yancey.
Ten years ago author Philip Yancey spoke at the El Rey Theater in Chico, part of a series of talks sponsored by Bidwell Presbyterian Church. The best-selling author of “What’s So Amazing About Grace?”, Yancey chronicles how “God chooses to make himself known primarily through ordinary people like us.”
Now comes autobiography, a “prequel” to his other books. “Where The Light Fell: A Memoir” ($28 in hardcover from Convergent Books; also for Amazon Kindle) focuses on his early life through college days, a stunning tale of growing up in Georgia, of racism and white poverty, and of a mother visiting her own dashed dreams onto her two sons — with irreparable harm.
In 2007, in the aftermath of a life-threatening car accident, Yancey thinks that “in the face of death, old fears would come surging back. An upbringing under a wrathful God does not easily fade away. Instead,” he says, “I experienced an unexpected serenity. I had an overwhelming sense of trust, for I now knew a God of compassion and mercy.”
It wasn’t always so. A year after his birth in 1949 his father, convinced God would heal him, succumbs to polio. Mother (that’s what she wanted to be called) dedicates Philip and his older brother, Marshall, to become missionaries, a dream she and her late husband would never fulfill. “My brother and I are the atonement to compensate for a fatal error in belief.”
Raised in fundamentalism, Philip and Marshall learn how to move audiences with tearful testimonies even as they imbibe racism. Over time Marshall is estranged from Mother, trying out new lifestyles every week, buying into hippie and drug culture, and Philip becomes the sneak and “trickster.”
“Like Marshall, I fully expected God to crush me someday — the threat Mother held over us. Yet from the Bible I am learning about a God who has a soft spot for rebels.”
Life is like a jigsaw puzzle, Yancey writes. “Only over time does a meaningful pattern emerge. … In retrospect, it seems clear to me that my two life themes, which surface in all my books, are suffering and grace.” Readers will find both in abundance in Yancey’s unforgettable story.
Dan Barnett teaches philosophy at Butte College. Send review requests to [email protected] Columns archived at https://dielbee.blogspot.com
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