Surprised by Agape, by Justin Wiggins

When C.S.Lewis was a young atheist, he happened to come across a book called Phantastes, by George MacDonald, at Leatherhead train station in Surrey, England. Reading it was a powerful experience of transcendent Grace. He described his encounter with the fantasy work in these words: 

“It is as if I were carried sleeping across the frontier, or as if I had died in the old country and could never remember how I came alive in the new... I did not yet know (and I was long in learning) the name of the new quality, the bright shadow, that rested on the travels of Anodos. I do now. It was Holiness.”

It is amazing how, through an obscure Scottish fantasy-writers book, God began to work in C.S.Lewis’ life--the God he once thought was an imaginary omnipotent fiend! His conversion was not instant of course, and it took him many years to finally come to know the source of the joy that he  experienced through the landscapes of Ireland and England, his personal friendships, Norse and Celtic mythology, and the power and beauty of language. The seemingly small decision he made to purchase a book when he was a young man changed his life, and the lives of many others around the world. 

I look back on how a decision I made to go to a small-town county fair has changed my life in a profound way. I remember hearing a song called Meant to Live, by a rock band from San Diego, California named Switchfoot. It profoundly moved me. I began to listen to their music, and through it I discovered the writings of C.S.Lewis, which made all the difference in my conversion from agnosticism to Christianity. 

Reading Lewis’ fiction, essays, letters, and theological and spiritual works gave me a burning passion for the power of literature and other artistic mediums, helped me to find my voice as a writer, and led me to the writings of George MacDonald. Reading MacDonald’s fantasy works such as Phantastes, Lilith, and At the Back of the North Wind, and his poetry and Unspoken Sermons greatly influenced my faith. I came to understand why he was C.S.Lewis’ literary hero, and he came to be one of my literary heroes as well. MacDonald was married to his wife, Louisa, for over fifty years, had nothing but love for the individuals who attacked him for his theological beliefs, rejected the legalistic Calvinism of his day, and was a great scholar and writer, and a Scotsman who was proud of his heritage. George MacDonald inspires me to live out who I am as Justin Wiggins in Christ, love people of all worldviews, pursue my passion for literature and art, and strive to be gentle, kind, jovial, strong, intelligent, and authentic. It is an honor to be able to honor George MacDonald’s literary legacy!