Thursday, September 17, 2009
Book Review: "Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God" by Francis Chan
I just finished reading (listening to) Francis Chan's Crazy Love. I downloaded the audio book read by the author from iTunes and it's a good listen at about four and a half hours. It cost about two bucks less than buying it, plus there wasn't the hassle of needing to leave the house or paying taxes or burning gas to go somewhere to pay too much for it at the local Christian bookstore (no names.)
The first three chapters of the book are kind of a foundation for what the whole book is about. I woke up a little sick this morning and decided to take a long hot bath as I often do when I'm sick. So between last night and the bath, I listened to about the first four or five chapters. Apparently I stayed too long in the bath because I got out and threw up all the grape juice I had been drinking. The first chapters left me with a feeling of "yes I know that." He was talking about how great God is and how much he loves us and how the story of the universe is really about him and not us. Very important stuff. One point that struck me was about our relationship with Jesus and how we should seek that first. He quotes statistics about how most Christians pray only a couple of minutes a day and watch TV for four hours.
But later on came the real good stuff. You know the kind of stuff that you sit and listen to (or read) and you know in your soul that what is being said is the truth and that all these years I have been making excuses for not taking certain parts of what Jesus said literally. I was sitting in the Civil Engineering lounge in Bell doing my homework and listening to the meat of the book and I started to cry. I have always lived in marginal houses and have always wanted to build my ultimate dream house, an earth sheltered ultra efficient super sustainable house that would have virtually no utility bills and would be the paragon of virtue in a green world. But I realized that if I were going to follow Jesus and give what he wants me to give, I don't think I'm ever gonna get my house. I'll never be able to fulfill many of the dreams I've had growing up the way I did. I already know I'm not going to be rich and I'm okay with that. But will I ever get to live in an efficient house? Will I ever ever get to own an electric car? Do I get to see my dreams come to fruition?
I want to be a Christian, I want to be a disciple of Jesus, but the question is, what will he ask of me? And when will I have to tell my wife about it? How much do I give? How much is enough? Can there be too much?
I want to do what is required of me, but I don't want to do the minimum. And my flesh tells me I certainly don't want to do the maximum. I don't want to go the Financial Peace way and simply save my way into financial security, that's not what Jesus calls us to do.
Francis goes through a near comprehensive list of what it is to be a lukewarm Christian. He says there won't be any lukewarm Christians in Heaven. I recently encountered a lukewarm Christian or two when they demanded that I prove my care for the poor by telling them everything I had done for the poor. And as he read through the list, I thought, I do more than all of those, I give more money, I give more time, I serve more, I'm less demanding, I'm less worldly, but in the end, what is enough? What on God's green earth am I supposed to do exactly? What do I do?
Much of the last half of the book I spent waiting for the punchline. I waited for Francis to tell me what it was that I was supposed to do to fulfill God's will. Was I supposed to sell my house? Am I supposed to give all my possessions to the poor? What do you want Francis, I'll do it!!! If you tell me to sell my house I'll do it. If you tell me to be a nominal Christian and give sparingly to missions, I'll do it, just tell me. Neither poverty nor riches, I'll do it. Do you want me to save up and retire early so I can be a volunteer at my church for the rest of my life? Do you want me to move into the city... never mind, I don't want to do that. But anything else Francis, I'll do it. How is my life supposed to be? I don't want to just do enough so I don't feel guilty anymore. I have enough guilt already.
However, in typical fashion in nearly all Christian books, Francis didn't tell me what to do. He did give me a few examples though, including Shane Claiborne and Rich Mullins (though I would like to remind everyone that Rich would probably still be with us if he'd been wearing his seat belt.) And they are great examples, even Shane is a real Christian Greenie like me, but he doesn't get to live in a super insulated house either. He lives in the city and plants trees in toxic waste sites and feeds poor people.
Lately I've been coming to the conclusion that I'm not supposed to be a goer, but a sender. I like that, it's comfortable, it's nice, it doesn't require me to step out on a limb or be adventurous or anything, and maybe I might get a foundation or a building or something named after me. WHAT THE HELL AM I SAYING?!? Actually, just skip the second sentence in this paragraph, it was entirely untrue and only said to make a point, I've never felt that way. But now, I'm wondering what I really am supposed to do. I'm left with the last thing God definitely told me to do and that was to become a Civil Engineer. He hasn't really told me anything since then, not that I haven't asked him to, but we haven't really been close lately in all honesty.
Am I supposed to live on my engineer's salary? Do I drive that electric car? Do I build that house? Do I do short term missions like my Hydraulics professor, you know the one I wanna be like when I grow up? The big question is, did God make me with the inborn desires that I have, the car, the house, the wind turbines, the third world water filters, or are these my way of trying to slip into the file cabinet of "just above mediocrity?" Should I really have been crying about not being able to have the house? And it's not just the house, do I really have to give up all that I want to do with my life? Should I sell my $110,000 house and buy a $55,000 house and give the rest to the poor? I already live in a house that's a square foot and a half bigger than exactly half the size of the average American house, how much further down do I need to go? Can I build a 600 square foot really efficient house to house my wife and future four to five children (two adopted?) Can I have an electric car or can I convert my 24 year old mini pickup to electric and use that? Or should I sell my cars and ride my bicycle the nine miles into town? Or should I sell my house and live in a 600 square foot apartment in town? Do I sell everything, give it to the poor, live in my truck and have my wife leave me? Am I supposed to keep blogging, can God use that?
GOD TELL ME WHAT YOU WANT ME TO DO AND I'LL DO IT!!!
Fantastic book, I give it 10/10. Read it, if it doesn't change your life, you should really think about shooting yourself because you're just wasting your time anyway. $5.95 on iTunes.