I’ve been tagged for another book game, and, as Andrea commented, I like these tags because you can learn so much about a person by seeing what they are reading and how it affects them. But, since the books I’m reading are mostly literature anthologies, I’m going to use it as an excuse to review a book I’ve been wanting to highlight here for awhile. (It is Spring Break for me and I don’t want to be reminded that British Literature exists right now!)
I can’t remember which one of Gary Thomas’ books I read first, but several of them have been there for me at just the right moment. Soon after a relational split between some of my closest friends and leaders, I read Sacred Pathways and learned that differences in spiritual temperaments don’t have to be dividing lines, they can be sources of strength and inspiration. As newly weds, Dan and I took a Sunday School class that used Sacred Marriage as the text. Understanding marriage as a spiritual discipline intended to make me holy, not just happy, revolutionized my expectations for our relationship. My first year teaching a spiritual formation course, I reached for The Glorious Pursuit right away. Its focus on our embodiment of the virtues (gentleness, patience, love, chastity, etc.) as a measurement of spiritual growth – instead of measuring by amount of time spent praying or reading the Bible – is so helpful to Bible students hungry for true relationship with God but wary of anything smelling remotely of legalism. So, when Thomas’ new title came out last year, I was anxious to read it.
The Beautiful Fight did not disappoint! I was challenged by Thomas’ charge that we see this Christian life as more than just a “list of prohibitions.” Thomas claims that in our pursuit of righteousness we have made Christianity into a dull and lifeless religion that is more about what we don’t do than about what we have the possibility of becoming. But this is not a greasy grace message, on the contrary, Thomas believes if we truly understood the freedom that comes with holiness we would pursue it even more.
For me, the best part of this book was that it answered some of my deepest questions concerning my kids. (I have a secret habit of analyzing the characteristics of Christian families whose children have survived adolescence and college with their faith intact or, better yet, with their faith even more their own.) Here is the inspiring excerpt from the book:
The gospel of transformation is a far more powerful and inviting journey than the religion of prohibition. If we teach primarily that Christianity is about learning how not to do something, we will raise seriously frustrated children, because James promises us, “We all stumble in many ways” (James 3:2). A merely prohibitive faith will seem at first frustrating and eventually impossible. But when we teach how Christ transforms us and uses us, including sharing insights on how to experience God, know him, and be used by him; when we rouse people to join the Beautiful Fight — then each battle scar will build assurance, confidence, and joy. Every moment becomes pregnant with possibility…
I love this. I’m trying to incorporate it into my everyday life. This relationship with Christ is life-giving and should be demonstrated as such. I want my children (and my students) to chase a life of holiness because they are chasing a holy God. And he is so much more than a list of Thou Shalt Not’s. This book is excellent reading for a Rare Rock!