As I’ve confessed many times on here, I don’t read much; at least I didn’t read much. The reason there is a reading section on my blog is not because I feel I have some literary review talents, but that I need to almost guilt myself into reading more. There is nothing necessarily wrong with not reading, I just feel like part of my goal to become “all I can be” (whatever that means) should involved reading more.
Having said that a week ago I finished reading “Jesus is Better Than You Imagined” by Jonathan Merritt for the second time. That’s right, for the first time in my life I reached the end of a book and the first thing I did was turn back to the beginning and start again and do you know what? It may well be the next book I read too; it was that profound an experience.
Usually I would tell you here why I read this book, but I’m going to save that for a later post. After reading the wonderful, but intensely theologically deep Unveiled, I glanced through this new book, as usual, to see how many pages there were, how small the font was and to estimate how long it would take me to read it. Maybe that is the first thing I learned, my goal had been to just read the book, to get through it and check it off my self-appointed list. However after the first read through, a quick count would tell me that I filled 10 pages of notes by the time I had finished the book and I didn’t start writing my thoughts down until chapter 3.
What could have been a nice simple quick read was the spawn of maybe the most active my mind has ever been, certainly whilst reading a book (this would be where I pretend that I have read the bible like this, but while I read it and get a lot from it, sometimes I need a translator to help). Thoughts, realizations, conversations with God were flooding in from all over the place. I had to write them down; it was the only way to have a hope of processing it all.
I don’t write in books (other than middle school French text-books), I don’t recall why, it may be strange for a “non-reader” to have such a reverence for books, but the thought of writing in books has always been foreign to me. My copy of Jesus is Better Than You Imagined now has blue ink throughout it, sentences underlined, paragraphs squared off for quick access in the future, yet I fear that I have missed some spots, another reason for a third reading. I have read some good Christian books in my walk with God, some books that have really helped, but I have never had such a profound experience with a book that is not called the Bible (which I realize is counter to my previous statement, I have had many intensely profound moments with the bible, just not as extended and spread out over one period). So I guess my first observation with this marvelous book is that it is almost irritatingly thought provoking, in a really good way!
So here I am, with ten pages of notes to go through and all sorts of things I want to say about this book, thoughts that I need to process, some to share, some to keep. I suppose you can expect many related posts over the coming days and weeks. I want to try and give a brief description though of what struck me to round out this initial post, but where to begin, what to say about this wonderful, wonderful book?
Let me say this, the author’s honesty and openness is refreshing. This is just as much a book about his life as it is a book on removing the human limitations that we all too frequently place on our limitless God. While the book is Jonathan’s story, this is also my story, the content is obviously different, but it is my story, heck it is probably most of our stories. That is the beauty of it.
The book reads to me not like a collection of sermons or theological teachings, although it is theologically rich, Jesus drips from the pages, the book reads like a conversation with a dear friend. The kind of conversation you can only have with those you trust the most, those that you love. Maybe it reminds me more of the conversations I had going through “Making Peace With Your Past” a few years ago, which was group therapy in all but name (it’s a study), those conversations with initial strangers that would create a bond that will last a lifetime. The relationships may not be active, in a way exposing yourself that much can at times make it difficult, for some to then “do life together”, but the bond created will always be there.
As you read, the emotional involvement with the book only deepens, everything contained is so relatable. At the same time as relating to the actual situations, I found God tapping me on the shoulder, repeatedly asking if I got it now. Wondering if having read it I now saw where he was in my situations. In a way the book for me was like one giant spiritual Homer Simpson “DOH” moment. There were as many reminders contained as revelations, so many powerful teachings that I have received over the past ten years that in my humanness I had either pushed to the back of my mind or forgotten completely. It always seems to go back to my great struggle to live consciously, to be aware of God, not just in the big things, but in the tiny details, in the regular, the mundane, He is everywhere, you just have to look.
One of the random thoughts I had while reading, other than I’d like to buy a case of these books to give away (don’t worry honey I’m not going to), was that if ever a non-believer wanted to know why I believe what I believe. If a non-believer wanted to figure out what made Christians believe in an invisible, difficult to prove God, this book may explain it better than anything I’ve read. It is just a beautiful picture of life, the struggles we all face and the difference having God in your life can make.
I don’t know if there are any plans to develop a study guide to support the book, I hope there are, if not maybe I’ll do it myself. I’d love to run through this thing with my brothers from church. I feel that it could be a hugely powerful tool in a group setting for both deepening one’s spiritual relationship and for at least beginning the healing process that so many of us need to go through in order to become healthy human beings; so that we can begin to experience the life that God wants for us.
There is a very good chance that I will never meet Jonathan Merritt, but my brother in Christ will always hold a special place in my heart, he and his incredible book will always be in some distant way a spiritual mentor to me. I will always remember reading how well he thinks and being reminded me of how much I still do not think, of how I still live too much by instinct. Most of all, I will always remember that no matter how far I go, not matter how close to God I get, Jesus will always be better than I imagine.