In the midst of my preview visit to my college campus, I had to sign up for my first round of courses. It just so happens that there was a senior there who was friends with some people I knew. He was eager to tell me which professors I had to take during my time there. One was a dear Bible professor who was soft spoken, opened his classes with a different hymn every time and knew the names of all his students. I was sold and signed up to learn from him. I remember being sick and missing “Christian Foundations” class one day my freshman year and receiving a personal email and prayer from this professor. He spoke truth in a way that made sense for real life, because it was clear that he really believed what he saying. He knew Jesus in a way that was humble and personal, deep and beautiful and his teaching reflected that. I got my minor in Biblical Studies and I took every class I could from him. It was a true joy to be his student.
I was reminded of being taught by my favorite professor as I read So, What Your Point? This book is deep and not a quick read, but incredibly worth the effort. This is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time, and it was my pleasure to be taught by Fran Sciacca (pronounced “shock-a” if you were curious), a man who describes himself as “a fellow traveler who’s a bit further down the road.” (30) This book goes beyond “issues” of the day to strike at the heart of what is behind those heated topics: who we are and whose story we are living, and why we find ourselves disillusioned so often with God, the church and even ourselves.
“Unfortunately, however, after decades of the “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life” version of Christianity-that at the end of the day, it’s all about me-there’s no place for failed kidneys, or the loss of a job, or the death of a child, for that matter. But most importantly, the “wonderful plan” edition of the gospel as it is popularly presented-and appealing as it has become-has no place in the Scriptures, or in the life of a believer, as we’ll see in the rest of this book.” (15)
Fran proceeds to share about our identity and who God is, talking in the form of story. As someone who considers myself to be a student of story, my heart definitely resonated with this language. I see myself and the church so clearly as Fran shares out of this language about where we’ve “got it wrong.” He weaves Scripture masterfully into current examples, without straying from the point at hand: we find ourselves in God’s story, not our own.
This book answers the “now what?” question that so many Christians find themselves asking about their lives, after accepting Christ. The Christian life is so much more than just “asking Jesus into your heart” and “making it into heaven.” Fran does an exceptionally good job at covering much ground, from the history of the church and where we find ourselves today, to an overview of the story of God. I was incredibly impressed by the depth and breadth of this book, without becoming too heady or wordy. Fran goes deep, but keeps checking in with the reader to make sure you’re tracking. I appreciated his humor mixed with encouragement at different parts, like at the end of chapter 3, for example, when he seemed to “know” that I was feeling a little overwhelmed with the weight of what had just been presented: “Some of you are already groaning. I can imagine it. In an age of image consultants and spin doctors, of sound bites and Google’s strip-mining of “relevant” data, I suspect this already seems like too much work. Let me console you with this assurance: If you take seriously what follows, and internalize it, you will find yourself rich in purpose and hope as you age, instead of impoverished by disappointment and complaint. You will discover a direction that transcends continents and ancestry, one that is robust in the face of life’s circumstances-a sense of meaning that is not shattered by divorce, disease, deceit or desertion. I know this to be true from Scripture. But I also know this to be true from experience.” (30)
I underlined something, if not multiple “somethings” on what felt like every page. I’m delighted to own this book because I will be adding it to the written words that my heart needs to periodically engage with. This book reminded my heart why I am here. It convicted me in deep ways. It asked me hard questions that made me look into my heart, past the facade and image I’ve projected, to the motivation behind what I do. I was reminded of my own tendency to “read and think in terms of [my] story instead of The Story.” (208)
Here are a few (out of many) of gems from this book, that convicted my heart:
“As much as we in the West have been conditioned to bask in Jesus’ gentle call to “come,” we tend to forget or ignore that His call to “come” was always accompanied by a command to “go.” Faith always believes, but it never basks. That has always been the modus operandi of God.” (65)
“He [Paul] warned us that leaving God out of our speech will lead to us leaving Him out of our choices, and eventually our of our lives completely. Godless speech will result in ungodly living. The opposite of godlessness is letting God be God. He will be anyway, at the end of the day. We know that. But choosing to submit because He is your King, and spending time with Him because He is also your Teacher, opens the rivers of your soul, allowing His truth to help you unlearn the untruths that have made themselves at home.” (91)
“It’s true that the gospel involves me and my guilt, and justification is surely one of its blessings. But it’s not about me. It’s about the kingdom coming on earth as it is in heaven. And that is a “good Story,” one that would surely be a blessing to all who hear it.” (212)
“God has never negotiated with His people regarding what they felt their mission should be. He never will. There is only one mission because there is only one Story.” (214)
“We are called to live as restorers of shalom wherever we are and whatever we are doing. God expects us not only to raise children with a deep understanding that things are not the way they’re supposed to be, and why, but also to see their role in reversing Eden’s folly.” (244)
This book reengaged my heart towards the greater Story that I’m invited to be apart of. It has filled me with a hunger to reread the whole Bible, looking to see God at work, instead of what I can “get out of it.” I’m only part way through Genesis, and already, I’m amazed to have a better glimpse at who God is and how he chooses to invite people into the work he’s doing.
I can’t recommend this book highly enough. If you follow Jesus, this book needs to be read. Fran is a humble, kind teacher, showing us the truth that he’s discovered and pointing us back to the only life of meaning that is available to us, a life that submits to a story greater and beyond ourselves. “Life, as it turns out, is an adventure even when you’re not choosing your own adventure.” (248)
* Tyndale House Publishers provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255