Steve Wiens wants us to stop pursuing an ideal life. Most of us dedicate ourselves to this goal – and that includes Christians, who tend to baptize this pursuit in spiritual language. For example, whenever I ask a group to tell me what comes to mind when they hear the words abundant life, their answers tend to go right to the stuff of ideal life wins: material blessings, problem-free relationships, fulfilling and lucrative jobs, and an upgraded zip code. Wiens suggests that our “forced march” in search of ideal life as achievable target is an illusion. “When you believe in that particular lie, you are living as if, instead of as is. As if you will be happy once you finally get there. As if you will be finished once you finally reach it. As if the destination doesn’t change. As if the misery of the forced march will be constrasted by the exhilaration of reaching the destination.”
Wiens’ book Beginnings: The First Seven Days Of The Rest Of Your Life uses the Genesis 1-2 creation narrative to move us toward as is in our lives. His thesis: “You are not a noun. You are a verb. You are endlessly becoming.”
This is not Oprah talking. Wiens is a pastor who writes with biblical fidelity and a great deal of honesty excavated through his own suffering and struggle. He uses a theme from each creation day to help us understand how we can cooperate with God’s work of creation/recreation in our lives. For instance, he uses God’s creative acts on day four to discuss the way in which sun, moon, and stars define the physical seasons in which we live. That discussion is a springboard into a rich conversation about the seasons of our lives. To illustrate the wait of winter, Wiens recounts a seven-year struggle through infertility.
Spring is characterized by hope; summer, by savoring abundance. Fall is marked by loss. Wiens narrates the story of the prophet Samuel’s mother, the long-infertile Hannah, to demonstrate with his soul-piercing prose how she modeled both faithfulness and struggle through each season of her life. Wiens writes, “When you learn to embrace the season in which you find yourself, rather than fighting against it or pretending it’s different than it is, a beginning can slowly turn into a story, which transforms you and the world in which you live.”
Our little stories are always fitting into, and reflecting, the larger Story – the Beginning behind all our beginnings. Our task isn’t to define exactly which day we are in, but rather to see the large themes of Scripture as they arc our way over our lives, casting familiar shadows and helping us to feel less alone.
Selah. Sit with those words for a while.
Beginnings affords each of us a way to notice and live into eternal time in our lives. Each chapter ends with a section entitled “Practice”, which affords you a way to apply what you’ve just read, as well as some probing discussion questions. Individual readers struggling with transition in their lives (which is pretty much all of us) will benefit from the empathy, coaching and wisdom in this book. In addition, Beginnings would make an excellent companion for a study group focused on spiritual formation. Highly recommended.
A lot of other people are talking about this book. Check out the conversation taking place here at Patheos here: http://www.patheos.com/Books/Book-Club/Steve-Wiens-Beginnings
Disclosure: I received a comp copy of this book from the publisher, but would have gladly purchased a copy. It’s that good!