Jeff Goins sent me an advance copy of his new book, Wrecked, which comes out on Wednesday (August 1) and asked me to review it before it hits the shelves. So that is this. Rather, this is that.
Wrecked is about getting out of your comfortable life and coming face-to-face with the depravity of the world, where your comfort is rocked and your life is shaken and you can never be the same. It is a collection of stories, strung together with narratives, of individuals whose lives have been turned upside-down by encounters in the third-world and the underworld by poverty, homelessness, disease, and missions work. Goins has a unique ability to present these stories as a man who has had these encounters and one who works with others in the midst of their own encounters.
It's the kind of book I normally put down almost immediately, but I read this one all the way through in just two sittings.
The reason I normally put these books down is because they are generally very tedious to me. Stories of people with no practical exposure to the real world who find out what life is really like and then have to figure out what to do with that. Encouragement to draw from your privilege to reach out to those with so much less and almost nothing. Really, these kinds of books about ministry that seem to purport to make you feel guilty about growing up in America and having toys, friends, and education are just tough pills to swallow. And I guess there's been a wounded place in me that is so grotesquely offended by them that when I read the synopsis, I rolled my eyes and muttered something like "here we go again."
I'm not saying this is a bad concept for a book at all; I know many eyes that could use some opening and this is a great tool for doing that. This book, in particular, is challenging to those who need this very thing. But I don't connect with these books. I know, I know. I've grown up in America and by many definitions, that makes me the privileged, spoiled, blind young person that so many of these books target, but that's not my story. My story doesn't begin with comfort and end with depravity; it begins with depravity.
Then why did I love this book so much? If it's not the kind of book I'd normally bother to read and it's not a story I feel like I can connect with, why couldn't I put Wrecked down?
Because I was connecting with the other side of every story and thinking about what those stories mean. I was connecting with the mother in Africa who had given up two children, then found a way to earn a living and actually adopt a few others in her four-room house with one light bulb. I was connecting with Micah, a man in Seville, Spain, who wrecked Goins' world but really just wanted a cheeseburger. I was connecting with Steve and the community under the city of Nashville, ignored and neglected and hiding from a painful world.
And I was thinking about my own wrecking...and theirs.
Jeff writes about wrecking like it takes us from the good to the bad, from privilege to poverty, from comfort to conflict. To an extent, and to guys like Jeff, that is absolutely true. Reading this stories, though, I was profoundly aware of the way my life has been wrecked. Sort of in reverse.
I wasn't comfortable. I knew pain. I knew conflict. It seemed my life was driven by these two things. I didn't really know that at the time; it was normal, this life of struggle. It was just how things were. I knew what it was to make the tough choices, to sacrifice when losing more was only cruel punishment, when the days took it out of me and the nights failed to give it back. I had no illusions of being privileged, untouched by the depravity of the world. I was living depravity in every depth of my heart. And I was content to do very little or nothing with my life, so long as I could push through and survive another day. There wasn't a tomorrow, just more tomorrows until one day, they would end. And I was ok with that.
Then in my mid-teens, I was wrecked. I met a Man who turned my world upside-down, who showed me something so powerful as love, comfort, and rest. Those were radical ideas that, had He never shown me, I would have lived my days without. In that, there was a choice - to turn my back and walk away unchanged, shirking this invitation to a grander scheme or to embrace what He laid out before my eyes and my heart, letting my life be wrecked.
It threw me into a deeper darkness than I had known existed, as I allowed the struggle of light and dark to enter my being. It penetrated me in this profound way that is indescribable unless you've been there, and I believe it's the same kind of thing that happened to the people in the stories in Jeff's book - the man who trekked to Guatemala and couldn't get it out of his heart, so moved back for two years. Except in this wrecking, instead of being the missionary seeking the lost, I became the lost seeking the missionary. As the darkness began to resolve, more than a decade later, I found purpose and passion in what God has been asking me to do with my life.
That's really why I enjoyed Wrecked. It did what it was supposed to do - bring together the pain in my heart with the promise of my blessing and the position I'm in, with His presence, to do something greater with my life. It just came at me from a different direction. From wholeness, peace, and an invitation wrecking my perfectly content to die devastated life. It hit at that place in my heart that is drawn into ministry, that story that is greater than mine that I'm itching to be a part of telling. It reminded me of the privilege of being in this place, poised to serve in a powerful way through a powerful story because of a powerful Love.
That said, Wrecked is a recommended read for anyone with that nagging feeling something is missing in their life. But I say that with a bit of caution, because I want to also say this: it doesn't take a dash of depravity to wreck your life, though that is primarily the focus of this book. Sometimes, it takes a little Love or a gram of grace or a moment of mercy. So when you pick up this book (and you definitely should - August 1), pick it up with an open heart and throw yourself into the stories. Not looking for anything in particular but opening yourself to what these words might speak to you. If I had followed my gut and put the book down the moment I knew it was one of those books, I'd have never found the blessing in its pages and would have missed the chance to connect to my own wrecked story, which has infused my days with passion and purpose and this incredible grace from my incredible God. Let these stories guide you, not guilt you, into finding your own wrecking...that may one day be your reckoning.
And as a side note, as I think back to the words of this book, I'm still thinking about the mother in Africa, the homeless man in Spain, the community of vagrants in Nashville, and a host of others...and I'm thinking (Jeff, help me out on this) how cool it would be to tell their stories, too. Because I guarantee, from my experience as the depraved, that when those missionaries left, when those moments were over, the Americans with opened eyes were not the only ones wrecked; so were those left behind who maybe never left that one spot but who found a new world with a new love and a new reason. Ask that mother in Africa how it was to be wrecked...and to work out that conflict in her heart by building something new in her life. Ask Micah how it was to be wrecked by a redhead from the midwest, a cheeseburger, and a beer...and ask him what that meant the next time he saw a man like himself. Ask Steve what it meant to be wrecked...and to know there was more to the world than the underworld and how that agonized his heart to thirst for more instead of settle. Not because it will build our egos as missionaries, not because we need to see the fruit of our good works. There are a million books like that, too - to make us proud of ourselves, to make us think we're making a difference. Tell the wrecked in reverse stories for the sake of those whose only life is depravity and who would never think of wrecked as a good thing, but who could find a little grace and find meaning and purpose in their stories and in their lives. For the sake of those looking for what they can do from this side of wrecked. Just a thought.