If I could give you one caution that has come out of a year of growth for me (which is of course only half over) it would be this, be mindful of what you pray for but don't be careful. I wrote in December that I hoped the Lord would continue to break my heart for what breaks His. What perhaps I hadn't considered was that the answer to that, what breaks His heart, might be me.
I pursued the Lord with everything I had while in Haiti this past April. When you peel away my electronics, my makeup, my hair dryer, my fancy clothes ( I almost just said clothes and realized you'd all be picturing me run buck naked through Haiti if I said that), my job title, and take me literally completely outside my element it is easier to really get me on my face before the Lord. I didn't want to lose that when I returned. I immediately dove into the word (the Bible) as well as a select couple of Christian books with a fervor I had never experienced before.
It's almost humorous how each book has built on the next. I started with Francis Chan's Crazy Love which challenged me on what lukewarm Christianity looks like. It challenged the comfortable Christian life I've built. After I finished, feeling a little broken and exposed I read Jen Hatmaker's 'Seven: an Experimental Mutiny Against Excess' which challenged the life of extreme over indulgence and excess that is the 'norm' in American culture, Christian or not. It flipped that on it's head and made me uncomfortable, in the best possible way.
Halfway through Seven, I receive an e-mail asking if I'd be interested in reading and reviewing Jennie Allen's newest book, 'Anything'. I haven't been taking review copies of books in order to free up time to read what I want over the last two years but as I read the description I knew, this book was for me. If there was any doubt this was written on the back of the book:
We are all chasing something. Our hearts were made to run hard and fast after things that move us. But as a generation we are all beginning to stir and wake up, identifying that these words don't satisfy for long, especially when compared to God. If God is real, and we are going to live with Him forever, should He be everything?
I dove headfirst into this book the day it arrived and at times I felt like I was reading the cries of my own heart. Jennie wrote, ' I grieved a life that was spent on myself, the excess I had justified while other's suffered'. My heart ached. How perfectly worded this cry was for an NFL football coaches daughter who spent half of high school in the 5th richest county in the US, and had just experienced her first week in a 3rd world country.
Jennie Allen's open, honest look at what it means to reach the point in your faith where you can say with conviction 'Lord I'll do anything. Anything.' was refreshing, challenging, inspiring, and eye-opening. I was almost late for work every morning for the week I managed to make myself stretch this read out over because I didn't want to put it down. My coworker who finished the book just before I started said it perfectly when he said, 'I was sad to finish it, I just wanted to keep experiencing it'.
I can't think of a single negative about this book. It was well written, perfectly thought out, and painstakingly honest. I felt motivated, even as I dealt with some unflattering self discovery along the way. I finished it with the hope that in the next year or so people will start saying of me what Jennie says of a friend in the book, 'she traded entitlement for surrender, and God took her up on it'. I have spent my time and energy in pursuit of a life I thought I desired. But this book, and the Lord's gentle prodding at my heart, have chipped away at my plans and shaken me to the core, leaving behind a desire to love the Lord enough to do anything.
Jennie shared several writings by Katie Davis, who unsurprisingly wrote the next book on my 'to read' list (I told you all my books are feeding into each other lately). Katie was a lot like me. She grew up in a successful, affluent Christian family. She was raised with a keen awareness of the Lord as well as the desire and ability to excel. That's where our stories part ways.While Katie dropped out of college to live in Uganda as a missionary and adopt 14 girls, I kept on pursuing the American Dream while dangerously allowing myself to believe that it was God's dream for me. Success, affluence, comfort.
It seemed to me that Katie's story helped push Jennie harder towards wanting 'anything'. One of the blog posts Katie wrote that Jennie shared says this, ' Jesus wrecked my life, shattered it to put it back together more beautifully. I am in Love with Him. Period'. Jennie Allen seemed to hunger for that, even as her book has left be hungering for the same.
Allen's book will take you on her journey from comfortable Christianity, through praying 'anything', and into what I bet is just the beginning of her 'anything'. Her anything included adopting a child (a common theme among my reads this year) and into that same place of being wrecked to be rebuilt more beautifully. If that desire is tugging at your heart, pick this book up. You'll laugh and cry with Jennie on her journey and like me, it will show you where you are in your own journey to a personal 'anything' and encourage you to take the plunge. The overwhelming feeling I finish this book with is hope, hope for all the Lord has for me as I let go of my American Dream and pursue hard after His anything.