Summer is here. This means pool time, a very messy house, late nights for the boys, and for me?
Books. Lots and lots of books.
I have a stack of them next to my bed that is slowly growing and thus slowly leaaaannning to the side because of gravity. Fine. Go forth and multiply, books! You have my blessing.
One of my favorite blogging gigs is reviewing new releases for Beacon Hill Press, a Christian publishing company based out out of Kansas City.
I just finished Joseph Bentz’s book Nothing is Wasted: How God Redeems What is Broken.
You know, I think God is pretty funny. And by funny, I mean, He always seems to send me stuff right when I really need to hear it. Right? Isn’t God funny that way?
He’s clever, that God.
About a week ago I kind of fell apart on the husband. Things at our house had been kind of hard. Death. Illness. Cancer. Broken relationships. It had been piling on lately, and I had had enough. Like, I just needed to rant a little. And as par for the course in marriage, the spouse was the best option for being the rant-ee. I told Brian, in kind of a wail, that I don’t like our earth. I don’t like what my kids are going to grow up in. I don’t like all the anger and chaos and cancer and politics, and how all of this is terrifically UNFAIR. The world is supposed to be basically likeable, isn’t it?
I mean, isn’t it?
Bentz kind of summed up my thoughts in the very first page:
You’re worried about money. You fret about work. What about the crisis in your family? What about all the sickness among the people you love? Where is your life headed? Even if your life is going well now, you wonder how long it can last. All around you, everything is falling apart… The possibility of disaster lurks in every automobile trip, every medical checkup, every unknown terrorist’s scheme.
I think Bentz and I stay up at night, worrying about the same things.
But then, Bentz added:
“God held out the promise of something eternally good being pulled from the muck of the sin-damaged world.”
I remember reading this and thinking, “Oh, yea. I know. You’re gonna tell us it’s all gonna work for good and Romans 8:28 all over on me. I know. I have heard it before. But tell me, when a brother dies, or an addict picks up again, or a child is hurt, what do we DO with the pain in the meantime? What do we do with it? Just hold it and wait for heaven to make it all better?”
Well my friends, this book does not do tidy. Bentz is willing to ask the really, really messy questions. They are the kind of questions that I ask too, because I am one who is, or was (I’m working on it) addicted to numbing out pain:
I know. My scribbles are immature and petulant but honest. Don’t we all feel that way, sometimes? What is the point, God?
Along with all those messy questions, Bentz doesn’t provide an easy answer. I wouldn’t trust it if it did. Bentz does not follow with an easy acronym about how life is HARD (Help others! Ask for help! Really don’t give up! D#%@ this sucks!) or such cuteness. He digs deep. In fact, he uses soil, insects, decaying flesh, and something in chapter 9 he refers to as “melting down to your essential goo” to help us understand. Literally, the next chapter is entitled “Dirt and Muck and other Yucky Things.”
Messy stuff. Really messy stuff.
He tells us about the tiny seed that must, if it’s to produce a plant, die in the soil. And, if the seed is going to die, either way, don’t we want it to count for something?
But then, Bentz really made me smile because he subtitled this chapter in a way that so sounded like something I would say:
I Like My Seed the Way It Is. (*Insert foot stomp here. Entirely mine.*)
I want to make a prediction. No matter how positive all this talk of seeds and plants may sound at the moment, when you are called on to bury your seed to let it die so it can be transformed into what it was meant to be, you won’t want to do it. Seed burial, rather than seed preservation, is so counterintuitive, and often so painful, that resistence is built into it.
This is a good book about bad things. Or seemingly bad things. Well, no, really just bad things, like heart break and sickness and circumstances that tear at us. I don’t want to tell you more, because I want you to read it. You will be glad you did.
You will get messy, but you will be glad you did.