Notebook Author Moonlights as Track Coach — And Mentor

“Love doesn’t mean anything if you’re not willing to make a commitment.”

Though that line is spoken by one of the characters in Nicholas Sparks’ latest novel “Safe Haven,” it’s a viewpoint the best-selling author shares – and it’s a vital concept for all of us to consider.

With the success of books and movies like The Notebook and Dear John, Sparks has a well-founded reputation for being able to craft romantic stories that touch people’s hearts.  But romance alone isn’t enough to create a meaningful, lasting relationship like he’s had with his wife Cathy for over twenty years.

As a guest on Christopher Closeup, Sparks explained that he once had a debate with his brother Micah about this very topic.  Micah suggested that communication is most important in a relationship.  That led Nicholas to ask, “What does communication matter if you’re not committed to each other?  People who’ve been married a long time or been in any relationship – whether it’s with your parents or with your children – you know that emotionally, it’s going to go up and down.  Love is not a straight line.  If you’re committed, you know you’ll work through whatever’s keeping you down, that you’ll come out on the other side, and it will get better again.”

Sparks acknowledges that there are times when he and his wife don’t get along for a while.  Their commitment, however, motivates them to improve things and provides “a source of stability.”  The couple’s Catholic faith also keeps their relationship grounded and on the right track by directing their minds and hearts toward a higher reality.  Sparks says that praying daily and attending Mass every week serves as a reminder that, “There’s more out there.  The world doesn’t just revolve around you.”

The author’s belief in commitment extends beyond his home life to efforts that help those in need.  He worked with many teens from tough backgrounds during the years he served as track and field coach for New Bern High School in his home state of North Carolina.  Most of the team members were poor and came from broken homes.  The path they were on would likely have led to them dropping out of school.

Sparks helped them believe they each possessed God-given potential and pushed them toward reaching it.  He not only led the team to state and national championships, but New Bern High School was recently voted the greatest high school relay team in history!  How did he do it?  The longer Sparks coached, the more he realized that success depended more on mental attitude than physical training.  He told them over and over, “Champions perform best when it counts the most.”

The author’s efforts paid off in other areas too.  He explained, “I got 60 or 70 disadvantaged kids off to college on scholarship, another chunk went into the military…Nearly every one of them is moving forward.”

Though commitment may seem like a burden to those who see it as being tied down, Nicholas Sparks demonstrates that it’s key to moving forward in life and relationships.  When we commit ourselves to another person and their well-being, we’re tapping into that person’s inherent desire to be loved and accepted, and allowing them to grow as a result.  More importantly, we’re reflecting God’s love and commitment to us as His children.  We may stray like the Prodigal Son from time to time, but there’s always a loving Father waiting to welcome us back home into our true safe haven.

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  • RoodAwakening

    Nicholas Sparks has also co-founded a private school that advertises a Christian worldview: http://www.nicholassparks.com/about/epiphany. This is certainly admirable…but given that many–if not most–of his books feature pre-marital sex between the main characters (and not always with a declaration of love, beforehand), I wonder if this gives local parents some concern about the school’s underlying philosophy regarding appropriate Christian BEHAVIOR? Of course, those story details MAY be imposed by Sparks’ publisher, in order to be “relevant” to a larger audience, I suppose….

    I read three or four of Sparks’ books, before tiring of the SAMENESS of them!

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