because I had seen the Rankin-Bass cartoon adaptation of The Hobbit a few months earlier. This was the first book I had ever read.
I’m sure it was still the early part of ’78, still winter, because we had not moved to Washington yet. Certainly, it was Neil Church, our music pastor, who recommended The Chronicles of Narnia to me; and thank God he did! I recall coveting a UK published set he had in his office at the church. It was closer to my actual reading level, and, therefore, much more appropriate. I had a more recent US set, and I read these books over and over (probably over 30 times) from then through the ‘80s. There was something in them that spoke to my soul, and it offered me an escape of sorts from life in a world I didn’t feel a part of.
But this recollection was from when I think I was in the fifth grade, late in the school year… so 1979 when I was eleven years old. I was at the top of the long driveway, right before the decline started. I was unhappy, lonely, and found myself standing there, praying that God would give me a passage into Narnia, or someplace like it.
My teacher that year, for whatever reason he had, suggested that I see a mental health professional (though I’m sure he said “shrink”). Not because of the Narnia thing, nobody knew that. I was almost entirely disconnected in the classroom, only occasionally speaking up, correcting the teacher on a mistake and getting myself in trouble.
I saw a psychiatrist in downtown Seattle who got me talking a lot! I don’t remember any of the topics, but I do remember the IQ test. (And I remember seeing a capuchin monkey in a car on the freeway on the way home one day.) A few years would pass before I found out what the doctor had determined about me, but the following school year, my sisters and I found ourselves in a small private school. At the start of sixth grade, I tested at a second-grade reading level. By the end of the year, I was at seventh-grade.
Unfortunately, the prime years for learning the core of mathematics had passed. However, I became a voracious reader, and C.S. Lewis was my favorite author. I had read Mere Christianity and The Problem of Pain before I turned 14. I always had two books going: one for home reading, and one I carried when we went out. At home, it was almost always Narnia. Outside, I read Edgar Rice Burroughs, JRR Tolkien, Edgar Allan Poe, various Star Trek novels, and anything else that came my way. At least once a week, I walked down to 7-11 and also picked up a couple comic books.
In 1982, the private school closed and my parents contacted the school in Texas that had provided their curriculum, arranging for my younger sister and I to do school at home. In 1983, just as my first year of home-school was ending, my family started attending a new church. On the first Sunday there, I met Gavin Anderson. It was also his first time there, and we were immediately best friends.
Shortly thereafter, I was supposed to write a short story for an English class. I don’t think I’d written a story since fourth grade. The result was chock-full of the things I felt inside. It started, “There was nothing special about Steven Collier, and people made him feel that way.” It ended with him discovering a varve that was the portal to another world. He stood there, at the exit of the magical caverns, facing a sylvan scene and two moons in the distant night sky.
In the summer of 1984, Gavin and I spent a month together working at Lakeside Bible Camp on Whidbey Island. We washed dishes, set tables, did general custodial duties… and on a couple of occasions we snuck out of the cabin at night and took a canoe out onto the lake. We sat in the canoe for what must have been hours talking about the things that were of interest to us and (we believed) to no other teenager in the ‘80s. After speculating on what Tolkien might have written further on his world of Middle Earth, I told him about my short story. He asked, “Well, what happens next?”
This was the seed of the story I’d write about Steven Collier in a world of elves, dwarves, and dragons. To date, it’s easily the longest thing I’ve ever written. Over the next years, it was the vehicle through which I experimented with writing. It’s really not good, and I’m sure will never see print, but it holds a place in my heart.
Writing became the door that God gave me into my own personal Narnia.
Our staff is voluntold each week and with grace they share their thoughts.