John Lennon became greater than Jesus, Fidel Castro seized control on all Cuban cigars, and Miranda was finally read his rights; all of this happened in the strange year of 1966. Another very weird thing happened in that year: I was born.
It is a year that sociologists are not sure if they should categorize as the "Boomers, Busters or Jones Generation." It never really quite fits.
A while back I was talking to my mom about 1966 and she made an off-handed comment, "One of my all-time favorite books was written in that year. It is called 'Tell No Man,' by Adela Rogers St. Johns. I devoured that book." And when my mom devours a book, she really devours a book! I asked her if she still had it-- and sure enough, way down in the basement sitting on one of her crusty old shelves, there it was. "Can I borrow it mom?" She replied, "Sure, you can keep it if you like." So I began to read it, and let me tell you, I devoured it too! This book is fascinating because it is written with all the 1966 weirdness included...and as you read it, it will grow on you. It has now become one of my favorite all-time reads (4 times now to be exact), precisely because it is so weird.
Why is it so weird and yet so good? Because it is a very honest story about a man changed by Jesus; without any of the cliched baggage of most Christian novels. There is no knight from the 1500's coming home from the crusades to reclaim a lost love, no swash-buckling pirates who win the pure maiden's heart, no beautiful blond Amish lady who rides buggies & churns butter, and there is no appearance of the Anti-Christ in the form of Nicolae Carpathia. It is simply about a worldly man, Hank Gavin, from Chicago (think Don Draper from Mad Men) who comes face to face with Christ. The author begins her story by saying, "I must tell it without the benefit of togas, helmets, camels, or walls to fall off of, not as a costume play to believe which makes no demands on our credulity, but as a reality of our own day, time, household, and city, wearing a business suit..." I must say, it is a risky book with all the dark details of the pre-Christ world, but the risk and oddness makes it so fascinating, and honest.
What propels the author to write her story about Hank Gavin is the possibility of experiencing the miraculous in real life. She writes, "All my life, a life sometimes desperate, driven, worldly, defeated, repentant, magnificent, filled with fun and love as it had been from the day my grandfather with holy simplicity read to me from that book called The Acts of the Apostles, I had been invaded by a passion for, an overpowering excitement about, a painful, always hopeless yearning toward what came to Paul on the Road to Damascus...a light shone for all to see. Such, they told afterward, as had never been seen before. A voice spoke with such love and hope as no voice has spoken to us since."
And then she writes, "For years I had tried to assure myself I couldn't hope for it to happen here. Or now. Not in our enlightened century, our scientific age, our age of intellectualism and education. A myth. We must call it one of the many myths. Or dramatic license, like the ghost of Hamlet's father. Or an illusion. Miracles yesterday. Miracles tomorrow. No miracles today." But in Hank Gavin's life, she saw God enter our world in a very real and direct way.
What she wants is what I believe we all want; to really see Christ work. I think we all yearn to see Jesus change someone as he changed the Apostle Paul. I know I do! It doesn't happen as often as I would like, but when it does, the weirdness of new birth is like nothing else. Jesus says in John, "Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.' The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit." In the story of Hank Gavin his life change was so profound that she writes something that is truly wonderful when a person is genuinely born again, "Nothing could stop Hank Gavin from trying what Chesterton said had never been tried." Do you know what that is?
“The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried” – G. K. Chesterton -