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Monday, September 3, 2012

"A Grace Revealed" (Jerry Sittser)

TITLE: A Grace Revealed: How God Redeems the Story of Your Life
AUTHOR: Jerry Sittser
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012, (272 pages).

This book is a sequel to the earlier book that launched the writing career of Jerry Sittser.While the bestselling book, "A Grace Disguised" talks about how the author grieves and takes on a perspective of seeing God's grace amid his personal tragedy, "A Grace Revealed" begins where that book left off. There are at least three main things that Sittser is trying to do. Firstly, realising that the first book tends to be a theological treatise to readers on how to think about loss and grief, Sittser begins by story-telling the entire life event to make it more personal than the first book. Secondly, he wants to move away from any fixation on the tragedy, toward a more helpful eye of redemption. What has happened has happened. What remains to be done is to learn to live on toward a future with hope. Thirdly, Sittser invites readers to story their own lives as they read about Sittser's own story. Rather than concentrating on the works of Jesus in one's life, it is even more redemptive to focus on the PERSON of Jesus Christ.  Such a move is God's initiative, not ours. The four key components of redemption are:

  1. "Redemption involves a story."
  2. "God is the author of the redemptive story, from beginning to end."
  3. Settings and circumstances if submitted to God, can liberate us.
  4. "The goal of redemption is not immediate happiness .... but holiness of life..."
By telling lots of personal stories, the author is able to show readers the path he has been traveling. We read about how the deaths of loved ones have been continually used by God to hone his personal understanding of redemption. He shares further intimate details about how his first moments of his infamous tragedy becomes to moot point in learning. We are all in a way, a work in progress. We are characters in search of a story. Redemption comes when we are able to see our own stories and to connect them closely with the story of Jesus dying on the Cross for us. Christ redeems us by freeing us from the bondage of sin and unhealthy grief. A story is also truth with us as a major player in it. It is important because our past stories determine our future stories. It is even more important that we let God be the main influencer. In other words, we need to see our stories in the light of the bigger story of God and His relationship with creation. Redemption is always a recognition of our small in relation to the big. When God redeems us (small), it is always part of the wider picture of redemption of the world (big).

Redemption is not about happy endings on earth. It is about seeing Heaven. Adversity exposes our weaknesses and humbles us. "Without adversity we remain spoiled children." Whether in good or in bad, we all need to learn to be "spiritually ambidextrous," able to grow in God whether in prosperity or in adversity. God begins where we are. Even marriage can be one of "God's workshops."

It is interesting to see how Sittser's book resembles Donald Miller's "A Million Miles in a Thousand Years." Like Miller's book, Sittser's deal with plots, characters, story, authorship, the end, the beginning, and the middle. Similarly, Sittser weaves in many personal anecdotes and illustrations even as he invites readers to write their own stories as they read. There is a small difference. While Miller's attempt is about telling us what storytelling means, I think Sittser's effort shows us what storytelling means. I am not trying to say which book is better than the other. I am merely highlighting some personal observations.

Thankfully, Sittser goes farther to mention the need to see redemption from the perspective of God's timing and timelessness. As far as the past is concerned, it is not merely the capacity to remember, but the MANNER in which we remember. Redemption is learning to see the past from God's eyes. As far as the future is concerned, we can only trust and hope that God be merciful. The final few chapters add in additional fodder for spiritual formation, working out the three Christian virtues (faith, hope, love), supported by four cardinal virtues (prudence, justice, temperance, fortitude), to help us recognize the redemptive path. While Sittser tries to show us the beginning and the end, the most interesting part is the middle. What do we do in the present? In the story of Tricia face to face with the murderer of her good friend Susie, we learn that God will always have the last say to all of life's problems, pain, and suffering. We need to allow enough time in order to make sense of things. This time is not ours to determine. The earlier we learn to trust God for the unknown, the better we are able to deal with the known. This is the key learning I gain.

Ratin: 4.5 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me free by Zondervan and NetGalley without any obligation for a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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