Book Review: Mercy is the Name of an Old Lady?

Arterburn encounterI wasn’t expecting to like this book as much as I did. A book about a middle-aged man on a self-destructive path having to face past wounds and in the process being met by God, sounded just a tad ‘Shack-y’ for my tastes. When the synopsis of the book online said:

The Encounter, the unique new book from best-selling author and counselor Stephen Arterburn, is a moving parable involving Jonathan Rush, a wealthy and famous entrepreneur, who is tortured by bitterness toward his mother who abandoned him when he was four. He travels to Alaska to find her but instead meets an enigmatic old woman known only as Mercy…

I just figured that this was a new twist on the same theme (meet God in your place of wounding and be healed). And that kind of was it, but not exactly. Actually the story doesn’t just follow Jonathan as he searches; it also tells the story of Ada, the woman who gave him up for adoption when he was four. It tells of how she made the choice, the regret she had afterwards and the ways she still tried to love him even after giving him up for adoption and forfeiting her legal rights to be in her life.

This then is a story of forgiveness. Jonathan learns how to extend grace to his mother (SPOILER ALERT: The woman he meets named Mercy, is in fact his mother Ada). Ada also has been walking around in guilt and shame since abandoning her son 31 years later. She has to forgive herself.

This story while fictional, is based on two true stories. One of these stories is reenacted in the climactic scene of this book. That is the best part of the book and is a vivid picture of what it means to extend grace to others, and the ways in which God extends grace to us.

I appreciated this book and it certainly caused me to reflect on where I harbor unforgiveness in my heart and what it does to me. I think on that level, this story illustrates well the dangers of letting bitterness to take root, and the experience of grace.

I received this book from Thomas Nelson via Book Sneeze in exchange for my honest review.

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I am a pastor, husband, father, instigator, pray-er, hoper, writer, trouble-maker, peacemaker, and friend. Who are you?

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