Amber shares stories of struggle and of laughter. She lets readers into her broken places, and also shares of amazing places of God’s goodness showing up in her as well as through other places. We hear about how community went wrong, and how it it went very, very right.
My favorite chapter of hers was 14: Hope of the Exiled. In it she’s talking to a Haitian pastor, and he gives some commentary on the American church. It’s powerful and true and sad all wrapped into one. They were talking about physical poverty and spiritual poverty and she told him that Americans are leaving the church in droves. She asked if he had any thoughts on that. This is what she wrote:
‘American culture need allows you to be satisfied,’ he said. ‘When you want something, you go after it and get it, and as soon as you do, you want for something else, maybe a thousand more things. American culture will never have enough. It stands to reason that the church will follow suit.’
St. Cyr said that as long as people make a god of relevancy and of gain, they will never be satisfied with the church. The leaders and the church structures will never be able to offer what is is people feel like they need. If Jesus can’t be packaged and sold to the liking of the congregants, a desire-driven, unsatisfied people will leave.”
She goes on after making some observations about her own life and her own wanting (because can’t we all identify with the wanting?)
The North American church is caught in the undercurrent of consumption, and it has become our own slavery, our not-enoughness, where upstanding ministers have to package faith and sell it at a good price so they can keep food on their own tables. It’s in the letters our missionaries send him so we’ll keep sending checks, when we often many of them don’t even know what they believe anymore. Do we know who they’re really doing Or is this a buying and selling of the Good News?…I looked around and saw paralysis. I had been watching dear ones walk away from the church, so many of us isolating ourselves. Many leave, wanting something that sustains, and what they had been calling the church is not what sustains. In fact, the church was never meant to be the sustainer.”
This chapter alone was worth the whole book for me. She goes on and it’s really good, but I’m probably getting close to my quote limit :).
To be honest, I did struggle through this book. I had really wanted to read it because I heard such amazing reviews of it through other authors I really trust and enjoy. I just had a really hard time staying into it. While I certainly learned about Amber’s life- the struggles, the growing, the setbacks, the victories- sometimes I felt like I was seeing her life through a poetic haze that only kinda allowed me to know what was going on. Amber was transparent with her thoughts and feelings, but sometimes I felt like the thoughts and feelings were about events that weren’t fully explained, so I wasn’t quite able to quite connect. I often felt like I was seeing her life through a steamed-up mirror.
Amber’s writing reminded me a lot of Ann Voskamp, another author who most people rave about (I love listening to her speak!), but I also find very difficult to enjoy. Perhaps I’m less of a poetic girl and more of a country-song “tell me everything plain” kinda girl :). So, if you like Ann’s work, I think you’ll probably like this book too.
I’m linking up today over at Literacy Musing Mondays :).
Thanks to Baker Books for providing me a review copy in exchange for my honest opinion :).