"If the God you believe in as an idea doesn’t start showing up in what happens to you in your own life, you have as much cause for concern as if the God you don’t believe in as an idea does start showing up. It is absolutely crucial, therefore, to keep in constant touch with what is going on in your own life’s story and to pay close attention to what is going on in the stories of others’ lives. If God is present anywhere, it is in those stories that God is present. If God is not present in those stories, then they are scarcely worth telling." ~ Frederick Buechner

11 July 2013

Wonderstruck: Review, Part 1

I follow the social media page of the library in our former city, and recently, they posted the question: "At what point, if any, do you give up on a book?" 
As an enthusiastic book lover from childhood onward, I used to believe that every book I picked up, I was required to complete. There just seemed to be something inherently wrong with giving up on a book.

And then I ran into Dickens. 

Yes, as in good ol' Charles.

Yes, I hear your gasps of horror.

Dickens just does not do it for me. I plucked A Tale of Two Cities off the shelves of my high school library one day, eagerly anticipating the story that lay within (after all, it is a "classic"). I stoically plodded through the first chapter, then the second. By the time I was turning the first page of the third chapter, I knew I was done. Now, nearly fifteen years later, I can't tell you exactly what it was that repelled me about that particular book, but it stands out in my memory as the first in the small list of books I've given up on. 

At the end of the spring, as my various church activities were drawing to an end, several of the women from my table at Bible study brought up the idea of continuing to meet through the summer as an informal book club. We threw around ideas of what to read: authors, themes, official Bible study or not, and so forth. 

We agreed on Margaret Feinberg's Wonderstruck: Awaken to the Nearness of God. I eagerly awaited my copy's arrival in the mail and dove into the first week's reading assignment. 

I was less than thrilled.

I didn't like the filled-to-the-brim-with-descriptors writing style, the redundant metaphors, the excessive clich├ęs. Chapter .002 seemed desperately melodramatic, and it made me uncomfortable in the way that it makes you uneasy when someone is obviously trying way too hard to make you like them.

And then there was the issue of the labeling of the chapters themselves: .000, .001, .002... I understand that these headings are supposed to reflect listings on a soundtrack. I found a list of songs the author recommends to accompany each chapter.

I get it.

But it wasn't working for me.

So after our first book club meeting, where I sheepishly shared my struggles with getting excited about this book, I prayed the prayer Feinberg instructs us to pray: for wonder. I prayed that the Lord would humble me, to help me see past the literary criticism to see Him, to hear what I had to learn. I prayed that I would move beyond the abundance of adjectives and focus on the simple truths that were being revealed through Feinberg's journey.
True to His character, God heard my prayer and answered. I realized that I was so caught up in the dross of my day-to-day distractions that I was overlooking the beauty of what He was trying to convey to me through Feinberg's words.
He brought to the surface areas of my life that I needed to surrender (yet again). He reminded me of what "sovereignty" really means (81). He challenged me about living an excellent life, not to impress others but because I am a grateful ambassador.

I remembered the joy and release in a life of discipline, of working hard so that I can rest and play fully, of preparing ahead for the Sabbath, of simply breathing in His goodness (71).

Then I came to the line: "... to slough off the excess in our lives that we may live lighter and holier lives" (83) in the same week that I went to hear Jen Hatmaker speak about striving to eliminate the excess in her life, and I knew that I was hearing my Abba speaking into my heart.

In this season of sluggish Texas summer heat, I'm thankful for these new reminders, for a refresher course, in a sense, of lessons already learned and then somewhat forgotten. Summer is a good time to mull over things slowly, to implement new structure, to see what works and what doesn't.

I'm glad that Wonderstruck isn't going to be added to my list of books I've given up on. 

Plus, doesn't Margaret Feinberg just look like someone you'd like to get to know?
I'll be writing again about Wonderstruck as my book club friends and I continue to journey through it, but until then, have you read Wonderstruck? I'd love to hear your thoughts on it if you have!

JOY DARE: 3 Gifts in Jars
1. Hundreds of petals and memories saved from roses given to me by my husband when we were courting

2. Jars of homemade blackberry jam ready for gifting to friends, friends Abba "surprised" us with, just as my college roommate prayed for me soon after we moved here, halfway across the country from our last home
3. Four shiny little Indian-head pennies sitting in a jar, a recent gift from a grandfatherly neighbor to our rambunctious little boy, who loves "Mr. David" with abandon as only a toddler can

*My heartfelt thanks to Worthy Publishing for providing me with a copy of Wonderstruck for honest, personal review. My opinions are entirely my own.

1 comment:

  1. I recently picked up A Tale of Two Cities at a thrift store because a) it was a classic and b) I had never read it. I started it all excited and didn't make it past chapter 1 :) Glad I'm not alone