‘The idea occurred to me of telling the stories of modern disciples,’ writes Graham Turner, ‘who had found what Saint Paul calls “overwhelming victory” over the kind of predicaments which would defeat most of us - drugs, a brutalising childhood, a wrecked career, incurable disease, physical handicap, grinding poverty, the bitter gall of racial discrimination, and so on. Men and women, that is, who had not merely endured or survived these predicaments but triumphed over them and emerged with their spirits enriched.
‘I did not start out with a circumscribed idea of what I was looking for, apart from that inner radiance which shines out of those who have found real victory, and the total honesty which springs from a penetrating vision of ourselves... the idea of telling these stories was not that they should serve as models for people in similar predicaments. They were written to illustrate both the ways of God with man and the amazing variety of ways by which men and women find Him.
‘What strikes me most is how often God meets people when they are at the end of their tether, when they are all but lost or when they can see nothing but darkness ahead.
‘This is not, I think, because God prefers us to be in terrible straits before He will show Himself to us. With many of us, these are the only circumstances when we are ready to turn to Him, or at least, open enough to receive Him. While we think we can handle life by ourselves, while we fancy we are in control, we prefer to remain, as we imagine, masters of our own destiny.
‘The fact is that, as we grow up, we allow a hard shell to develop around us, a shell made up of all the things which bind us to this world and its values - our ambition for our careers, our attachment to material objects and, most of all perhaps, our daily habits, our dishonesties, compromises and selfishness which, as they become standard practice, we acquire a vested interest in defending.
‘Somehow, if God is to have His way with us, that shell has to be cracked and broken. These stories suggest that we can best find God when we go to Him in total helplessness, with the simplicity and openness of little children. We have to offer Him an empty vessel and then be willing to let Him, in His own time and way, dismantle the structure of our old lives and help us build new ones.
‘The message of these stories is that it is never too late and we are never too far gone; that simplicity, honesty and courage are the qualities we need to find God; and that God's new world is waiting for any and everyone of us when we are willing.’
An excellent and lucidly written account of twentieth century men and women re-born in hours of crisis.