I read Shannan Martin’s book Falling Free: Rescued from the Life I Always Wanted this past summer in Minnesota. My friend Deidra got an advanced copy, and I swiped it from her faster than she could say But that’s my book! That’s not true, actually. Deidra begged me to read it. She said it blew her away, and she knew it would blow me away too.
So I read it.
In fact, I read it twice. I read a book twice when a) a book is so good I speed-read it because I can’t stop myself and then have to re-read it so I can savor it; or b) a book grabs me by the shoulders and shakes me so hard I have to read it again to ensure I’ve truly ingested the message. I read Falling Free twice for both reasons: because the writing and the storytelling are so incredibly well-done, and because the message left me feeling like I’d been punched in the gut. In a good way. Kind of. You’ll see what I mean…
“Christians like to say God can use us wherever we are,” Shannan writes in the introduction, “and it’s true. But sometimes we hide in that truth. We wiggle our shoulders into wherever it is we happen to be — the place we prefer to remain, thank you very much — until all we can see are the things we want to see and ‘being used by God’ becomes little more than waving to the neighbors across the way or teaching our children that lying is always a sin, no matter what. Noble feats, yes, and not necessarily even small. But they’re starting points, not destinations.”
See what I mean? Shannan tells it straight, and she doesn’t hold back.
Don’t get me wrong. Falling Free won’t leave you riddled with guilt. Shannan’s not that kind of writer or that kind of person (I got to meet her in real life this past winter, and she is totally the real deal, on the page and in person). But neither will she let you off the hook.
Falling Free is a memoir. It’s probably officially classified as “Christian Living,” but the reality is, it’s a memoir; it’s Shannan Martin’s story of how she and her family turned their quiet, peaceful farmhouse life upside-down when they up and moved to the city — and not just the city, but to a hardscrabble, working class part of the city on the proverbial “other side of the tracks,” where they rub shoulders with addicts and former prison inmates. When Shannan and her husband Cory announced their plan to move, friends and loved ones thought they were crazy. Truth be told, as I was reading the book, I thought they were crazy too.
But here’s the catch. Shannan will convince you, as she did me, not only that they are not crazy, but that they are also living out the gospels in real time. And she will convince you, as she did me, that God desires us to do the same. That we can, and should, “plainly, imperfectly, live what we say we believe.”
Let me tell you the truth. When I read Falling Free this summer, twice, I turned the last page all gung-ho about “doing something different” and “living out the gospels.” I had plans, big plans. Granted they were amorphous plans, but I felt it in my body and soul: I was going to DO SOMETHING. I even Voxed Shannan and told her, giddily, about my big, amorphous plans to do something.
And you know what I did?
Nothing. Absolutely nothing.
I feel like a loser for this.
But as I thought about my failure these last couple of days, here’s what I decided:
First, I’m going to give myself some grace, because I’m probably not the first person with good intentions that led to a big, fat nowhere.
Second, I’m going to read Shannan’s book. Again. Because clearly I need multiple kicks in the be-hind.
Third, I’m going to listen to what God might be telling me and my family about our role in living out his good news right here in our small square of his creation.
And finally, together with my kids and my husband (shhhhh…they don’t know about any of this yet), I am going to put together a plan to “plainly, imperfectly live what we say we believe.” I believe it’s my job, as a follower of Jesus, to love and serve my neighbors. And by “neighbors” I mean all my neighbors, not just the ones I wave to when I walk the dog.
That’s what I believe. I’m going to live it.
As Shannan says, “Let’s not let fear stop us from being the good news to a world desperate to be known by God’s love. There’s work to be done, and we were handpicked for the team…”