I was excited a few weeks ago when I received an invitation to present a screenplay to Amazon.com on my novel, Faith – Seventy Times Seven, but with it, my sadness started all over again from the words I had written in 2014.
Before reflecting on the novel, the first thing I thought when I was contacted, was who could star in the movie. The Reverend Mrs. Ada Caston Slaton Bonds was the First Lady of the Louisiana Presbytery, the First Ordained Woman in the Presbytery, and the longest active woman minister serving the Lord in history. A modest, kind, beautiful and Christian woman, full of compassion, is necessary for her portrayal.
I thought of Audrey Hepburn, star in the Storm Queen, but she passed in 1993. And then I thought of Kathleen Byron, star in Saving Private Ryan, but she passed in 2009. Then, I sat down and began dissecting the novel to fit the many scenes that needed to be built for presentation of the script to Hollywood. Oh, I am still thinking, but it will definitely need someone just right. I stopped at Meryl Streep because my wife said let the filmmakers fit the part. Meryl and I are the same age and she is the same height and build as the Reverend Ada Slaton Bonds…perfect!
That is when it all started again. You almost have to be a writer working in creative non-fiction and trying to do justice in bringing to life a true and inspiring story of the trials and tribulations of the First Lady of the Louisiana Presbytery. We have all heard of Susan B. Anthony because she is on a small silver colored coin, but have you heard of Ada Caston Slaton Bonds? Her spreading the word of God began at 10 years old down by an old walnut tree on the Red River outside Coushatta, Louisiana and continued until she was 77 years old.
“What did Jesus mean when He said that we should forgive others seventy times seven?”
When writing the novel, I had old letters, a diary from early on in her life, and knew the woman first-hand as she was my grandmother. To write each chapter, I had to imagine I was standing in her shoes. I am in my writing room putting the words on paper at an early hour of the morning, and I, again, can not stop the tears that fill my eyes. I felt her frustrations for over twenty chapters. Her life was riddled with the devil trying to break her spirit…to break her faith, but each time she found forgiveness. How? How was she able to battle the Devil with such strength.
Now, writing the screenplay, I am reliving the novel, and not able to stop the tears while following the Reverend Ada Caston Slaton Bonds as she finds forgiveness over and over and over…490 times and more.
Answer: Jesus said we are to forgive others “seventy times seven” in response to Peter’s question, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” (Matthew 18: 21-22). To fully understand what Jesus was saying, we must look at the words in the entire chapter, for Jesus was speaking not only about forgiving one another but about Christian character, both in and out of the church. The admonition to forgive our brother seventy times seven follows Jesus’ discourse on discipline in the church, Matthew 18: 15-20, in which he sets down the rules for restoring a sinning brother.
When Jesus said to forgive those who sin against us seventy times seven, he was not limiting forgiveness to 490 times, a large and unobtainable number to be reached in a lifetime. Reverend Ada Slaton Bonds with her forgiving heart never did limit the number of times she forgave herself and those of others, especially her husband, Sidney Slaton, an abusive alcoholic. Not even when the Ku Klux Klan visited Old Progress Church in Pleasant Hill, Louisiana in 1920. Or, when the Boll Weevils destroyed her entire cotton crop in 1927. Or, when she lost her twin daughters in 1922. Or, when almost losing her life from starvation in the dark and dreary back swamps of north Louisiana from swine fever. She continued to forgive with as much grace the 491st time as she did the first time. This remarkable woman was capable of this type of forgiving spirit because the Spirit of God lived within her, and it is He who provides the ability to offer forgiveness over and over, just as He forgives us over and over.
I am pleased to write the screenplay and can only hope Hollywood can find just that right person to play the part of such a remarkable woman!