Which Books Have Wrecked You?

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Nichole Forbes -Literary Wakenings6

I wake up slowly. I set three alarms each morning. The first one makes me open my eyes. The second one gets me sitting up, and the third compels me to leave the safety of my warm bed. I usually begin to really wake up halfway through my shower when I question whether I’ve actually washed my hair yet or am still in the staring-at-the-bottle-of-shampoo phase of the shower process. Even after the alarms, the shower, the dressing and the primping I can’t be guaranteed to be coherent and engaged until after The Coffee. Until after lots of The Coffee.

Eventually, I do wake up and then I’m all in.

I feel like this wake-up routine is pretty indicative of my life. I’m slow to wake up to coming change. I ease into the transition phases of life, testing the waters cautiously, until I am compelled to move from my place of safety and into What’s Next. More often than not, for me, the thing that is the catalyst for this kind of awakening is a book. I read, I meditate, and suddenly I’m all in!

Oswald Chambers captivated me with his words when I was 19 years old and discovered My Utmost for His Highest. As a young mom I felt the power of the legacy I was creating through Francine Rivers’ Lineage of Grace. Years later, when I was battling cancer and my own doubts about my significance, I found encouragement and inspiration through the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer as told by Eric Metaxas in Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. All of these books brought an awakening to me—an awakening of a life that could be More.

Two years ago, I felt the whisper of More circling my heart. I was an associate pastor, a community volunteer, a writer, a wife, and a mom. I had a great life, a comfortable life. But the call to More was there, lingering around the edges of my world. I had no idea when I picked up Jen Hatmaker’s Interrupted that I would end up with more More than I could handle and All the Feels to go along with it!

Interrupted was a game changer for me. It called me out on so many of my long-held church hangups and beliefs. It forced me to confront my own understanding of what being a Christian really meant. What does serving really mean? Is church my home base or my country club? Do I have friends outside of church? Do I know even one thing about my neighbors? Am I engaging with the lost or only doing enough to assuage my guilt? Yeah, lots of super comfortable questions there.

It took me several months to get through this book. There were countless times I had to set it aside as I wrestled with my own paradigms. I chewed on these words slowly. I tasted them, I digested them down to my soul and slowly I began to wake up. Page by page I began to see my faith as less mine and more ours. My Jesus became our Jesus. My blessings became our blessings. Walls were torn down and room was made for More–more love, more understanding, more compassion, more community. This book wrecked my life, woke me up and ignited a passion for community and unity that just won’t be snuffed out.

 

I knew that I couldn’t be the only one wrecked—and made whole again—by a good book, so I asked my SheLoves pals and fellow contributors to tell me what they’ve been reading lately and what it’s done for them. Here are a few of the great replies I got:

I’ve been reading and thinking about lament this year, and Beth Slevcove’s BROKEN HALLELUJAHS is a memoir that ends up feeling like a visit with a spiritual director. She rightly diagnoses our tendency to minimize our feelings “as if each of us is only allotted a small amount of grief and we had better put it to good use on something really important.” On the other hand, allowing ourselves to feel authentically opens our hearts to “see the beauty, feel the joy, hear the laughter, and be touched by God’s innumerable graces that course through our veins and sneak into our circumstances. —Michelle Morin

JESUS FEMINIST by Sarah Bessey —After laughing, crying and amen-ing my way through a few of Sarah Bessey’s blog posts, I decided to order her first book, Jesus Feminist. Part memoir, part theological treatise, part sermon-I’ve-always-longed-to-hear, Bessey writes with clarity and conviction on important topics relating to women in the church and in the world. Most strikingly, her beautiful words abound with her deep love for Jesus and the people He loves and call us to be those who would go and follow His example. After reading the final chapter, I found myself moved to kneel beside my bed and respond in prayerful tears of gratitude and surrender. From the book – “The kingdom of God will be better with your voice, your hands, your experiences, your stories, your truth… Rest in your God-breathed worth. Stop holding your breath, hiding your gifts, ducking your head, dulling your roar, distracting your soul, stilling your hands, quieting your voice and satiating your hunger with the lesser things of this world.” Amen. I’m glad that Bessey has chosen not to quiet her voice. A holy, powerful, inspiring read. —Lindsey Smallwood

JUST MERCY: A Story of Justice and Redemption, by Bryan Stevenson, is outstanding. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It is the true story of an African American lawyer in the south fighting for rights of death row inmates who were unjustly incarcerated. Though it is non-fiction, it reads more like fiction as Stevenson draws you into the stories of the men and women he has met on his journey as an attorney. This book illuminates the racial injustices that are happening not during slavery or the early 1900’s, but RIGHT NOW. It proves that we are not in post-racial times, but still living in the midst of rash injustice. I loved this quote: “…the true measure of our commitment to justice, the character of our society, our commitment to the rule of law, fairness, and equality cannot be measured by how we treat the rich, the powerful, the privileged, and the respected among us. The true measure of our character is how we treat the poor, the disfavored, the accused, the incarcerated, and the condemned. We are all implicated when we allow other people to be mistreated” (p. 18). Best book I’ve read all year. And it will really fire you up. —Leslie Troutman Verner

ESSENTIALISM is rocking my world right now too. I have a Sabbatical month coming up this summer and I’m planning on taking stock of where my energy is directed and how it can be more aligned with who I am/what I’m made for. —Olive Chan

For me, reading is often the beginning of an awakening. I can feel it coming on like the fog lifting off the lake on a summer morning. I know within the first few pages of a book if it’s just going to be an interesting read or a total gamechanger for me.

There is nothing sweeter, more exciting or invigorating for me as that moment when I realize this book, the one I’m just wading into, is the book to awaken me to What’s Next.

So, Lovelys, what are you reading? What has awakened your heart, refreshed your soul or turned your whole world upside down? What good book has wrecked you in the best possible way?

 

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