God truly moves in mysterious ways to accomplish His purposes. I learned this in August of 1977, when He unfolded His plans for me in a way beyond my wildest imaginings.
It started with a whisper: Write a novel set in the time of Christ. I immediately dismissed the idea. Who was I, who had only sold a couple of inspirational romances, to even consider such a task? I knew and loved the Bible stories but wasn’t familiar enough with the times and customs to do a Biblical novel justice.
In spite of serious misgivings, characters and events I could include in such a book flooded my mind. The whisper grew louder, accompanied by God’s word to Habakkuk (2:2-3), “And the Lord answered me and said, ‘Write the vision and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it. For the vision is yet for an appointed time . . . wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry.’”
Neither could I tarry. I accepted the challenge with fear and trembling and began writing Belated Follower.
I had wondered from early childhood, “When the shepherds followed the angel message and went to see the Christ child, what about the sheep?” Their keepers surely didn’t leave the flock to the mercy of wild animals. Benjamin, the youngest shepherd in my book, would lay aside his disappointment and remain with the flock so his much-older father and friends could behold this wondrous thing. After they returned, he would go to see the newborn child.
I started waking up at 4:30, typing for two hours, then getting ready for my day job. The story poured out, unlike any before or since. The right scriptures came to mind. Biblical characters, and the fictional ones who interacted with them, became alive and real. Seventy-three-thousand words later, Belated Follower was a reality. I polished and submitted it to a leading Christian publisher. They loved the story, held it for two-and-a-half years, then decided they only wanted to do one Biblical novel, and contracted with a more established author.
During the next seventeen years, while sending to dozens of publishers who praised the book but didn’t want Biblical novels, I revised several times, cutting about 20,000 words. By the early 1990s, I had numerous highly praised novels with Heartsong Presents, which I’d helped launch (Barbour Books). My editor said if I would expand the romance, they would issue as a Heartsong. While revising, I thanked God that the story had not sold sooner. It needed the skills honed during the waiting years.
Fan mail poured in following publication in 1995—more than all my other books combined. Trade paperback and hardback Large Print editions followed. Yet years before the long-delayed success, the book I had feared to write had changed my life.
One morning while driving to my government job shortly after completing Belated Follower, I cried out, “Lord, what am I doing spending my time and energy winning honors at work when I could be helping make the world a better place with my writing?”
I thought of a well-loved passage from Emilie Loring’s 1937 inspirational novel, “There is Aways Love.”
“There is only one common sense move when you don’t like your life. Do something about it. Go somewhere. Follow a rainbow. Who knows, you may find the legendary pot of gold at the end of it.”
I liked my job, but I had dreamed of becoming a full-time author for years. What if simply quit my job at age forty-one and followed that dream?
I thought of the many obstacles inherent in such a decision. Yet the knowledge it was the right choice left me feeling as Peter, James, and John, must have felt when they left all to follow Jesus.
I gave notice that same day.
Forty-five years of writing, teaching, and mentoring others have passed, bringing sales of 175+ titles with 6,000,000 copies sold. None of my other books match Belated Follower. This new, revised edition reflects my current skills.
May you experience the joy and wonder I discovered follows when God calls us to seemingly impossible tasks, such as writing my one and only Biblical novel.
In Search of Christ and Love
Benjamin, the youngest shepherd, is left to care for the sheep while his father and friends go to see the newborn Christ child. When Benjamin finally reaches the stable, the manger is empty.
Michal of Nazareth is pursued by a greedy merchant she despises, a man old enough to be her grandfather.
Sabra flees from the wicked master who caused her father’s death and forced her into slavery. Better to perish than to continue living in fear.Why is Jesus, reported to open blind eyes and heal lepers, always in the next village? Or just over the next hill? Will the weary travelers ever find Him?
Seventeen years in the writing and marketing, Colleen L. Reece (175+ books; 6,000,000 copies sold) considers her only Biblical novel her finest work. Many readers agree.
3 thoughts on “The Book that Changed My Life”
We are so happy that they are publishing your book again. We would like to get 8 copies for our family, but can’t make heads or tails out of the Amazon site. Do you have copies at home?
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Love this, Colleen. What a wonderful legacy your writing is! It’s had a great impact on others.
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Thanks. I am so blessed to do what I love and know I am making a difference,as well as having helped many others do the same.