Nicholas Sparks shares how his faith has contributed to the success of his writing.

Last February 5, the author of international bestselling novels Nicholas Sparks saw one of his works released on movie theaters for the eleventh time. The Choice is a film that is based on Spark’s 2007 novel which features the love story of Travis Parker and Gabby Holland who were eventually confronted with difficult life choices that will challenge their promise of unending love.

One of the secrets why all of Sparks’ novels became instant hit with readers and viewers is that each piece contains almost all the “flavors” of life. The author wanted to make each story close to what people experiences in real life and avoid being “fairy tale-ish.” Each of his work evokes all emotions from happiness, sadness, anger, frustration, love, including that sense of religiousness and spirituality. As Sparks notes in an interview with TIME magazine “So that by the time the reader finishes, they feel as if they’ve lived a mini-life. They went through all of these emotions, they were happy and sad and angry and frustrated and confused, and falling in love and then being in love and challenged in love, all of these great emotions.”

Religion and spirituality is highlighted in one of the early scenes of The Choice. In the lead characters’ conversation on a moonlit porch, Sparks depicts how a person of faith mingles and falls in love with a non-believer or a man having his own form of spiritually. As Gabby compares the night sky to divinity of God, Travis expresses his belief on nothing else but love.

Sparks has also infused that touch of religion or religious values on his other novels. He points that The Notebook is actually a metaphor of God’s unending and unconditional love for mankind; he stressed the undesirability of premarital sex in A Walk to Remember; and he also depicted the importance of faith for a couple in The Wedding. It’s also noticeable that in all of his novels, he doesn’t often portray ideas that are considered immoral in the Christian world and also avoid degrading any particular belief or religion.

For Sparks, religion and faith is “not only a destination but also a journey.” And he himself experienced this unique journey first hand. He abided by his childhood religion, casted doubts because of tough life experiences and eventually reaffirmed his faith after almost a lifetime of discernment.

Nicholas Charles Sparks was born on December 31, 1965 in Omaha, Nebraska. Since childhood he was raised as a Catholic Christian. As he recalled in an interview, he regularly prays and attends church mass every Sunday as what his parents taught him. During his teenage years, he eventually started questioning faith based on what he observes on people. For example, he notices that the most religious individuals don’t often get what they’ve asked and prayed for while non-believers or the less faithful get unending blessings.

Tough life events were eventually the biggest reasons why he started doubting religion and particularly God. In 1989, his mother died because of an accident. In 1996, he lost his father and in 2000, his sister also died of cancer. But the author eventually learned that faith requires an individual to believe despite all the questions and doubts.

Sparks explained that “During those periods, I became very strong in my faith and then I began to wane a little bit. My brother became less faithful for a time and now has come back. And that’s what I think faith is. It waxes and wanes with the vicissitudes of life. And I think God is okay with that because what I think God wants is for us to choose to love him and love our neighbors.”

Today, Sparks explains that his relationship with God is more platonic. Every time he prays, it’s an opportunity to thank, complain to and even argue with God. As he explains “Who else could you talk to like that in your life and have them forgive you so wonderfully? [My relationship with God] is a profound love and a friendship. And it’s one that means a lot to me.”

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