Book Review for the 2nd quarter 2016
CHRISTIAN BOOK REVIEW BY
Marion Crump Spencer
Recently, I discovered a tremendous writer who is a pastor and spiritual director. In Sensible Shoes- A story about The spiritual journey, Sharon Garlough Brown interweaves the spiritual journeys of four women who are vastly different from each other into a tapestry of the faith journeys of all people. The issues of guilt, grief, perfectionism, and fear are treated in a way that confronts and comforts at the same time. I was anxious to reach the conclusion of the book to se e how the characters’ issues were resolved. I was not disappointed.
The four characters are “drawn into a spiritual formation journey at a retreat center” in Michigan. Hannah is a single, middle aged associate pastor who is forced to take a sabbatical by her church leadership due to impending burn out. Hannah is in denial and resists taking this time to re-fuel. Meg is a widow who is grieving many losses and filled with fear. Mara is an unhappily married mother of three boys who overeats to manage her loneliness and the guilt of her past. Charissa is a young doctoral student who is ruled by perfectionism.
Brown introduces some key spiritual practices to lead the characters into their pilgrimage. In the six week retreat they begin by walking a labyrinth while praying to help them move closer to God. In session two Brown presents praying the Word or sacred reading as a method of listening to scripture. Next, praying the Examen enables them to better discern God’s will for their life. Session four is the wilderness prayer where they transport themselves into the story of Hagar found in Genesis 16:7-10. Session four also involves them praying with imagination and picturing themselves inside the story of the Bible and encountering the events firsthand. Session five involves self-examination and confession as they journal responses to guided questions. The final session involves rules of life which can help them nurture their growth and formation in Christ. Though the methodology of the retreat leader seems initially unorthodox, there is an enormity of historical references and scripture to support the practices. The spiritual leader who guides the retreat also serves as a spiritual guide to a few of the characters providing counseling and support as they traverse the emotional demands of the retreat.
Brown uses the device of plot movement from past to present as each character struggles not to abandon this quest. The characters unearth painful memories and horrible truths. Brown realistically presents tension in the relationships between a few of the characters. However the unlikely foursome unites, thus illustrating how journeying together breaks down walls and creates improbable alliances.
Sensible Shoes can be revisited repeatedly in a journey to grow closer to Christ. Read it and prepare to be transformed.
“Stand at the crossroads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way lies; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.” Jeremiah 6:16