Thursday, January 12, 2017

Book Review: Falling Free

I don't know Shannan Martin, but I'd like to. She doesn't live far; in my own state no less. I'd like to know her and I'd like to be more like her. Her message in her book, Falling Free, is a simple one: stop chasing the American Dream and allow God to use you wherever He calls you. This is her story, a story of leaving behind a comfy farmhouse and moving into an urban setting where she could be a neighbor to hurting people. While I'm not planning to pack up my farmhouse just yet, I did glean a host of helpful thoughts.

She argues against the truism - "Hurt people hurt people" - saying, "hurt people heal people." When we acknowledge that we are all in the same boat, no better or worse than the one standing next to us, we are able to lend support, and in lending support we might actually find some of it coming back around our way. As Luke 6:38 says, "your gift will return to you in full - pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back." Shannan's question is: Are we giving enough? Are we looking for new opportunities to give to others?

I guess what I really love about Shannan is that she admits her weaknesses and attempts to cast the light on the needs of her neighbors instead of intense self-focus. She writes, "Less me. And more Jesus. Here, in this abundance of less, where more of us is stripped away, we'll uncover the person we were made to be, the one created in the image of a God who sank holy feet into our human mess." That's what I want: less me, more Jesus.

No, she doesn't run from admission of weakness. She says, "God could use weakness to redeem failure.... To touch the expansiveness of God, we've got to befriend the ways we come up short.... The truth is weakness is a simple fact of life. It's what we all are, at our core. We are weak. We need God, and we need His people. We need hope.... What I'm beginning to see, though, is that God doesn't fix my weakness by making me strong. He becomes my strength in my perpetual weakness."

I was especially convicted by this quote from Dirty Faith by David Z. Nowell, "New Testament faith cannot be practiced in private. Either the faith will destroy the isolation, or the isolation will destroy the faith."

Going to the lost will not be painless. It demands sacrifice. We have to be willing to fall into His arms and cast aside the safety and self-provision we cling to (hence the title: Falling Free). She writes, "God calls us to an obedience that prizes his protection over our own. He promises us gifts that leave us clinging to his grace and incomparable goodness. Rather than settling for safety and status quo, he offers us faithfulness.... He's begging all of us not to detour around the pain."

As I said, I'd love to be more like Shannan Martin. I hope this book will stir within me the desire and the motivation to go where it feels uncomfortable, to seek spaces He can use me, and to be willing to let go of the things I believe I need in order to experience the blessing He holds for those who gladly give all to the one who made all.

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