I’ve had two books I’ve been working through that I have wanted to mention here for a while. They really go hand in hand for my burdens for ministry.
The first is The Imperfect Disciple by Jared Wilson. Jared writes in an earthy, accessible style. He hooked me in the early chapters as he looked at Romans 7 and 8 “spooning in a full size bed.” The good that I want to do but don’t do fits right next to the fact I have no condemnation in Christ Jesus. He teaches similar truths with illustrations that flesh them out and settle them in your brain. I highly recommend it.
The second book is Natasha Robinson’s Mentor for Life. Natasha writes in a clear, pointed way. She lays out a simple framework for mentoring as intentional discipleship and inspires readers to get up and do it. With her practical advice, she helped me get together a plan for several relationships that I want to pursue in an intentional way.
But, then, after setting up times to mentor/disciple, inspired and directed by Scripture applied in both of these books, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Everything I thought I was going to do this semester fell apart. Every last one of my plans crashed to the ground. And I was faced, after just starting to emerge from the last storm of life, with being pushed under the waves once again.
I broke down and bought The Hardest Peace by Kara Tippetts. Broke down is the right phrase for it. I did not want to read this book. I did not want to consider my own mortality. Kara, after all, got bad news after bad news with her cancer, ultimately dying in 2015. Since being diagnosed, I have become painfully aware of every person that comes across my path who has died quickly of cancer. The Hawaiian vet on one of my son’s favorite veterinarian shows. Nabeel Qureshi, author of Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus. The young man who sprayed our house for pests. The friend who helped build my front porch. And countless other local friends and former classmates.
I am a single mom of two middle school boys. Seriously, I can’t die right now.
But I haven’t been able to get away from my own mortality. Though it’s looking more and more like this cancer is quite treatable, thoughts of my mortality aren’t going anywhere. It was time to face them head on, and so I literally broke down and bought Kara’s book. I’m pretty sure I was crying as I bought it.
But you know what? Like so many times before this, I found that there is a lot of grace for facing the worst head on. An hour ago, I turned the last page in Kara’s book and shut it for the last time. As I put it down, I thought, “I am SO GLAD I read that.” One of the most beautiful things about suffering is that the things of this world grow a little dimmer. But that is also the thing I always resist most. I don’t want to lose my grip on this world! But whenever parts of life are pried out of my grasping hands whether I like it or not, I find that what I receive in awareness of eternity is so much better.
Kara, Nabeel, and Joey (who built my front porch) stand alongside Paul, Silas, Corrie ten Boom, Jim and Elisabeth Elliott, and a thousand other heroes of the faith, cheering us on from the sidelines in our own perseverance in the marathon of life.
Hebrews 11:32-12:2 (CSB)
32 And what more can I say? Time is too short for me to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets, 33 who by faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the raging of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, gained strength in weakness, became mighty in battle, and put foreign armies to flight. 35 Women received their dead, raised to life again. Other people were tortured, not accepting release, so that they might gain a better resurrection. 36 Others experienced mockings and scourgings, as well as bonds and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawed in two, they died by the sword, they wandered about in sheepskins, in goatskins, destitute, afflicted, and mistreated. 38 The world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and on mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground.
12 Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every hindrance and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, 2 keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith. For the joy that lay before him, he endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
I love that cloud of witnesses! Having finished The Hardest Peace, I think of Kara among them, giving testimony of God’s faithfulness as I look to Him in my own suffering.
For my own personal growth, this mishmash of books has been important at this stage of both ministry and suffering. I want to disciple, to mentor others for life, as Jesus sent us out to do in Matthew 28. I am certainly an imperfect disciple, but my Romans 7 inadequacies are hugged tightly by my Romans 8 covering by Christ. I can face the hard of life head on, confident in the grace of God that meets us not outside the hard but in the darkest innermost recesses of pain and suffering. This message that I need at my own lowest points is the same message others I hope to disciple need in theirs.
I have a free copy of The Imperfect Disciple to give away. Comment below if you’d like to enter the drawing.