My gaze fell on a book at a vintage bookstore by a familiar author. The Burden is Light the title read. I wondered at the dramatic subtitle, The Autobiography of a Transformed Pagan. The book was about and by beloved Georgia author, Eugenia Price, who has written much Christian nonfiction but also novels of historical fiction set in the South. I flipped through a few pages and saw the book was signed so I bought it delighted to have a volume with her signature.
But as for the transformed pagan bit, I honestly thought it a bit much. It was so out of sync with the person I came to know through her writing.
After Christmas, when things settled down a bit, and I could get back into a reading routine, I cracked the book open and saw it had been published in the middle of the last century at the very beginning of her career writing for the Christian market. Previously she had been a successful producer and writer of serials for radio, first for NBC, then Procter and Gamble. She later formed her own production company.
As I read, I had to shake my head a couple of times. Was this the Eugenia Price I knew―the kind, gentle spirit, whose work I read so much over the years? I began to understand the subtitle was not over dramatized after all. It pains me to say this, but she said it first. She was a woman with a hard heart, who not only didn’t believe in Jesus, but also mocked the things of God in a piercing way. She was a pagan.
The change came through two avenues―first, the witness of Ellen, a childhood friend that God brought back into her life. Ellen had been much influenced by Dr. Samuel Shoemaker, rector of Calvary Church and co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous. The second means was a Gideon Bible she found in a New York City hotel room. I thought of the Gideon Bible right then on my bedside table that my Gideon friend Don gave me to pass along. I had not yet found a recipient, but I was encouraged anew to seek out a beneficiary.
As Eugenia read that Gideon Bible, she remembered words Ellen had written to her, “This new thing isn’t something you have. It is Something that has you.” Something did indeed get hold of her. And slowly, the hard heart began to melt, and she at last gave her life to Jesus. Shortly after her conversion in 1949, she became a writer and director for the radio series, Unshackled, which related conversion stories. Almost seventy years later, it is still in production. According to the New Georgia Encyclopedia, she went on to write fourteen novels, twenty-two inspirational books, and three autobiographies. Her books have sold more than forty million copies.
I had the great privilege of attending her posthumous induction into the Georgia Writer’s Hall of fame a couple of years ago. I loved seeing the displays of her work and meeting her niece, Cindy Birdsong. We really hit it off.
Her book, The Lighthouse, was included in a list of twenty-five books every Georgian should read by the Georgia Center for the Book.
Now, after reading her conversion story, I appreciate even more what God did through her life. Sometimes, I think we lapse into the notion that Jesus came to save folks who aren’t too bad and just need a little push to get them over the hump. But Paul said it in I Timothy 1:15, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners―of whom I am the worst.” This man who stood approving of and held the coats of those who stoned Stephen knew what he was talking about. Jesus came for the hardest and coldest hearts. He came to save those who have mocked him―who have despised him. He came to rescue those who have no hope without him and don’t even know it. He came for you and me.
If you or someone in your life needs Jesus, now is the time. Today is the day. Let Him get hold of you. Let Him use you as He did Ellen to help lead someone else to Jesus. Let Eugenia Price's story change your story and allow Him to change the cold heart and ignite a fire. When I think of what God did through this one woman who finally surrendered to God, my hope is renewed for those who don’t know the Lord.
Who knows what God will do with one single life surrendered to Him?
And by the way, if you haven't supported the Gideons International lately, please do so. They do good work.
Here for A Plan for Everything now in Presell.