It is easy to plow through life going our own way. Making good decisions. Getting things done. Working our way up the ladder. Paying the bills. Providing for our families. Living the good life.
Living the American Dream.
But is there more?
Somewhere in that day to day, we can lose sight of God’s dream for us, actually His command to us. We often begin to insulate ourselves from the pain and suffering in the world. At the least, it most certainly prevents us from noticing the people around us and the opportunities to meet their need for love and kindness.
We believe our security comes from ourselves and the things we do. We believe our personal and financial successes are hard won, maybe even deserved. Sure, we gratefully realize that God has blessed us, but have we ever considered that maybe God’s plan was never for us to be comfortable and secure in this life? Maybe the fullness of this life can only be found in pursuing Him and following His leading, rather than simply chasing the American Dream.
A fantastic opportunity popped up for me recently. I got the chance to review an advance copy of Falling Free: Rescued From the Life I Always Wanted by writer Shannan Martin. Shannan blogged as Flower Patch Farmgirl for years, and now continues to share her life and stories at Shannan Martin Writes.
Selfishly, I was excited to provide feedback and see the workings of a book launch from behind the scenes. But the book itself? It bowled me over.
Shannan and her family gave up a comfortable life they had carefully built in the country to better position themselves to live in surrender to Christ. This meant changing how they defined their family, reevaluating their belongings, fumbling to truly live in community, and training their hearts to give generously and sacrificially. And along the way, it meant a sort of demotion by the world’s standards and learning to find comfort in discomfort.
They’re not saints, they’re you and me. And even though their life changes are not a formula to follow, we are all subject to the same calling.
I took pages upon pages of notes while reading. The message soaked into my soul so deeply that the concepts and quotes continue to work their way into my everyday conversations, thoughts, and slowly, actions. Now that’s a book.
Shannan’s writing is at once honest, laugh-out-loud funny, and convicting. But her words aren’t simply convicting; they are compelling. I am left looking at my own life, inwardly analyzing my values and outwardly straining to pay attention to the needs around me and opportunities to serve others. Shannan calls this the #ministryofpayingattention and a ministry it truly is.
The book came to me serendipitously, during a time I had already been pondering the root of many of my cultural beliefs and trying to untangle which are Biblical and which are from the American Dream. God bless election season, am I right?
Our family has been through its own shake up in the past few years. But what may have at times appeared to be a free fall by the world’s standards, has been a freedom fall into God’s hands. Reliance on God in our struggles has given us overwhelming peace and opened our eyes even wider to the people and needs around us.
Some thoughts from the book that shot through my heart and stuck with me:
“For all of our adult lives, our radar had been locked on one goal: to ensure our own safety and security. We were hardwired to focus on solving our own problems and applauded by the church when we constructed a life that pointed directly at the American Dream, with a side of Jesus.”
“What we saw with fresh eyes was that God’s ‘more’ often looks a whole lot like less. In this upside-down kingdom his best gifts are not found on the tallest shelf at the end of a strenuous climb. They’re found in the dirt. They’re low and humble, lacking as far as we’re concerned.”
“Without God dropping us low enough to lose ourselves in a trade for more of him, our hearts will not begin to match the beating of his for the poor and marginalized. In order to care, we have to find ourselves in the lines on their faces. And once we do, we’ll see it as mandatory to go to them and share their pain.”
“…giving is almost universally more about the condition of our hearts and what God has to show us than it is about the person at the receiving end. God cares just as much about my surrender as their need.”
Falling Free: Rescued From the Life I Always Wanted hits shelves September 20, but is available for preorder at all your favorite book retailers. If you preorder before September 20, visit the Falling Free website to receive free preorder gifts.
Take a moment to watch the book’s trailer here. Then order yourself a copy, ask God to open your heart, and prepare to be moved.