Saturday, November 11, 2017

'Blessed are the Misfits' by Brant Hansen

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In his unique style, Hansen looks to answer questions that millions of people carry with them each day:

If I don’t relate to God as emotionally as others do, is something wrong with me?
How does one approach God, and approach faith, when devoid of the “good feelings” that seem to drive so much of evangelical church culture?
How does God interact with those who seem spiritually numb?
Is the absence of faith-based emotion a sign of that God has moved on or was never there?
What if we aren’t good at talking to people about our faith, or good at talking to people at all?
What if I’m told I’m too analytical, that I “think too much”?
Where does a person who suffers from depression fit in the kingdom? Is depression a sure sign of a lack of faith?
This book is good news for people who are desperately looking for it. (And for their loved ones!)

It’s also for those who want to believe in Jesus, but inwardly fear that they don’t belong, worry that don’t have the requisite emotion-based relationship with God, and are starving for good news.


MY THOUGHTS:
A huge thanks to Brant Hansen for writing this book, because the sort of misfits he's talking about are probably more common than any of us realise, but each keep quiet to save face. We hesitate to confess our misfit status because we may feel inferior, and imagine that we lack some sort of spiritual backbone. Even when we've prayed, striven and tried hard to fix ourselves for years, the deficiency still seems to be connected with us failing to measure up. Especially when we see our outgoing, full-on and super-spiritual friends and family doing what seems to come so naturally to them.

This book is for the sorts of Christian misfits, oddballs and introverts who often feel we don't fit into what he calls the typical American church culture (or Australian by extension, in my case). When people talk about sensing God's loving arms wrapped around us during worship... well, some people just don't. Preachers and counselors urge people to 'open up to the spirit' or 'stop leaning on our intellect' but some can't effect any change. And when they pray, it's a bit like talking into a dead walkie-talkie. Hansen is a Christian radio personality who can relate to all this, and his book convinces us to stop feeling as if we belong on the 'Island of Misfit Toys of the kingdom.' Quieter, head thinking types of Christian can honor God just as faithfully as our more emotionally switched-on friends. What a relief.

He drops the names of some surprising people who counted themselves among the unfeeling faithful. Their lives bore real fruit, which is not the same as incredible spiritual experiences, wordy prayer times or impressive ministries. It's simply love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

I appreciate how Hansen gently puts to rest some issues which may have the potential to give us colossal guilt trips, such as failing to live up the the Great Commission or being unable to aspire to warrior type prayers. In a nutshell, Mark 16:15 wasn't necessarily meant the same way for everyone by Jesus, and even fumbling, ten-second prayer efforts have great potential. Reading this may be like balm to your guilt-heavy soul.

There's some lovely encouragement for the unnoticed, who may think they're consequently not worth as much as those in the spotlight. It's a reminder that we needn't look where everyone else is, because God operates a lot in the margins, and tends to nurture unobtrusive mustard seeds, sparrows and lilies of the field, while we're admiring lions and peacocks on the stage.

Lifting this weight of false guilt and unnecessary expectations off our shoulders is a great enough reason to read the book, but Brant Hansen also gives sound tips about how to face it whenever it creeps back, as it inevitably will. Developing the habit of ignoring our harsh and false inner monologue, and even challenging it as a liar, may do us a world of good. With the help of friendly books like this, I dare to believe it is possible. This is one I'll be dipping into many times.

Thanks to Thomas Nelson Publishing and Net Galley for my review copy

4.5 stars

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