It has been WAY too long since I’ve read fiction. I always want to read a fiction book, in theory, but I never choose it because there are so many other books that I’m interested in more. But, when one of my friends gave me this book to read, I was intrigued. Sensible Shoes is one of the only fiction books that InterVarsity Press has published. That in itself is intriguing. In my mind, if IVP publishes something, it must be really good- they are a no-fluff kind of publisher.
It was even better than I thought it would be. I read this 343 page book in three days- half of it on my flights between Madison and LA, and then the other half on the way back. It was the perfect travel companion. It was especially useful in helping to distract me from the fact that the airplane felt like a roller coaster on our way from LA to Dallas on the way home.
The real beauty of this book is that it ties together spiritual formation with really good fiction. Four women from different walks of life become unlikely friends during a 6 session spiritual formation retreat.
Hannah, a pastor who doesn’t realize how exhausted she is.
Meg, a widow and recent empty-nester who is haunted by her past.
Mara, a woman who has bounced from relationship to relationship, trying to navigate a difficult marriage.
Charissa, a hard-working graduate student who wants to get things right.
At the retreat, they are led through several different spiritual formation practices:
- Walking a labyrinth as a journey of prayer
- Lectio Divina
- Praying the Examen
- Wilderness Prayer
- Praying with our imagination
- Self-Examination and Confession
- Creating a Rule of Life
Not only do we learn about the practices right along with the participants, but then we see how it works out in each of the characters’ lives. We see the wrestling with God, the slow transformation, and the one step forward and two steps back that often marks the process of spiritual transformation.
I went into the book thinking that I would identify with one of the characters more than the others. Surprisingly, I found myself in all of them. The story is beautifully written and easy to get caught up in.
‘You can only turn to face God and receive his gifts when you’re convinced that God is love.’ (p. 120)
‘Our areas of resistance and avoidance can provide a wealth of information about our inner life.’ (p. 127)
‘In the examen we ask the Spirit to search us and know us. The Lord invites us to perceive his constant activity in our lives, to notice the things that move us toward God and away from God.’ (p. 182)
“Trusting God’s heart is everything…If I can always trust that God’s intention toward me is love, then even when I don’t understand the work of his hands, I can still trust his heart.’ (p. 241)
The book left me with a much deeper desire to do some soul work and engage intentionally in some of the useful spiritual formation tools laid out here in the text.
I think this would be a great book for a group of women to read together, or to be read within the context of a mentoring relationship.