Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Inspired - Rachel Held Evans

Title: Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again
Author: Rachel Held Evans
Publication Date: 6/12/2018
Pages: 240
Genre: Faith / Memoir / Nonfiction
How I Found It: I'm a big fan of Evans's work
Date Completed: 6/23/18

Summary: Evans wrestles with some of the toughest passages of Scripture. She challenges traditional mindsets about the Bible. Above all, she expresses her deep love for this book and its message.

What I Thought: It's no secret that I'm a bit of a Rachel Held Evans fan-girl. When I met her at the Why Christian conference this past spring, it was all I could do to not invite her to dinner and to be my best friend. I realize how creepy that sounds, but I swear my intentions it's not. She's just one of those authors with whom I feel a strong, real connection. In so many ways, I feel as though she is a few steps ahead of me on a shared faith journey. Her books have been a balm to my soul and an encouragement in times of spiritual struggle. 

When she announced that her fourth book would focus on Scripture, I was thrilled. Anyone who has ever actually read the Bible knows that it is complex and complicated and wonderful and fearful and often introduces more questions than it answers. 

Evans does a beautiful job navigating that complexity. She writes both frankly and reverently. It's evident that her questions come from a place of deep love and connection to her faith, but also from a desire to be informed about the context in which each book of the Bible was written. Filling in the gaps of historical knowledge and literary understanding can drastically shift how we read familiar Bible stories. That information adds layers of depth and richness that speak so strongly of who God is and what He desires for humanity. 

I'm always in awe of Evans's writing skill, but her reflections on the gospel were easily my favorite part of this book. I think she does her best writing on this subject, in part because it's so clearly close to her heart. Plus, the power of the gospel message is so inherently beautiful.

I think there is value in this book for any Christian, although I think some will have a harder time meeting Evans where she is at in her faith journey. To appreciate this book takes a willingness to engage Scripture with fresh eyes and humility. We have to be willing to step outside our boxes of culture or denominational upbringing and see God and His Word anew. In my mind, it's an exercise that never disappoints. 

Quotes I Loved:
  • "If you want to do violence in this world, you will always find the weapons. If you want to heal, you will always find the balm. With Scripture, we've been entrusted with some of the most powerful stories ever told. How we harness that power, whether for good or evil, oppression or liberation, changes everything."
  • "God save me from the day when stories of violence, rape, and ethnic cleansing inspire within me anything other than revulsion. I don't want to become a person who is unbothered by these texts, and if Jesus is who he says he is, then I don't think he wants me to be either. There are parts of the Bible that inspire, parts that perplex, and parts that leave you with an open wound. I'm still wrestling, and like Jacob, I will wrestle until I am blessed. God hasn't let go of me yet."
  • "I strained to conjure a single memory in which I 'came to Jesus.' From my first prayers at bedtime, to the picture books and songs that formed my early conceptions of the world, Jesus had always come to me."
  • "The kingdom of heaven...advances not through power and might, but through missions of mercy, kindness, and humility."
  • "Jesus didn't just 'come to die.' Jesus came to live - to teach, to heal, to tell stories, to protest, to turn over tables, to touch people who weren't supposed to be touched and eat with people who weren't supposed to be eaten with, to break bread, to pour wine, to wash feet, to face temptation, to tick off the authorities, to fulfill Scripture, to forgive, to announce the start of a brand-new kingdom, to show us what that kingdom is like, to show us what God is like, to love his enemies to the point of death at their hands, and to beat death by rising from the grave. Jesus did not simply die to save us from our sins; Jesus lived to save us from our sins. His life and teachings show us the way to liberation."
  • "[Jesus] was a man who loved a good feast and could spin a good tale."
Rating: ★★★★★
Will I Re-Read: Definitely
If You Liked This, Try: Out of Sorts / Pastrix / A Year of Living Prayerfully
Other Books By Rachel Held Evans: A Year of Biblical Womanhood / Searching for Sunday

A Reduced Review: A beautiful homage to Scripture in all its complexity. Evans tackles some of the toughest passages of the Bible, but her love for the book is evident on every page. 

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