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THE SHAPING OF A LIFE by Phyllis Tickle


A Spiritual Landscape

by Phyllis Tickle

Pub Date: April 17th, 2001
ISBN: 0-385-49755-5
Publisher: Doubleday

Citing encounters with seminal individuals, transforming experiences, and enlightening epiphanies, noted religious authority Tickle (God-Talk in America, 1997) relates how she came to live a life shaped by prayer and spirituality.

As much a primer on how to pray as an autobiographical account of the journey Tickle took from her original Presbyterianism to Episcopalianism, the book opens in Johnson City, Tennessee, where she was raised. Tickle was an only child of intelligent and loving parents. Her father, who taught at the local university, encouraged her to read widely. Mother set her alarm early so she could pray before rising, and each afternoon she would spend time alone in the living room devoted to the same purpose. This solitary, uninterrupted ritual taught Tickle from early childhood “the first two basic principles of prayer: It requires a disciplined routine and is . . . best practiced by a composed mind and spirit.” At college, a mentor introduced her to the Book of Common Prayer; in Memphis in 1955, newly married to medical student Sam Tickle, she found that reading T.S Eliot rescued her from “the cultural mindset of Christianized theism” and revealed “the highly personal role of a confessing Christian.” Her faith was further transformed by teaching high school, a summer job at the local Jewish Community Center, and a near-death experience after one of the many miscarriages she endured before bearing seven children. In the South Carolina mill town where Sam was the local doctor, an encounter with a retired missionary who spoke of the mysterious workings of the spirit completed Tickle’s road map for the life she would lead. She ends her account back home in Memphis in the mid-1960s.

Thoughtful and instructive, but Tickle makes the faith she practices seem awfully easy, and in her depiction reality is almost uniformly sunny and inspiring.