After the Wreckage: a ☆☆☆☆☆ book review

I loved Jonathan Martin’s previous book Prototype. It was about becoming like Jesus (the prototype of the new humanity) by discovering your true self. One chapter that was particularly meaningful to me was the one on wilderness. Martin described the experience of waiting and longing I was feeling at the time, and invited me to see my wilderness as a pregnant place, to attend to it, and discover what Christ may be birthing in me.  This helped me reframe my life and circumstance.

225_350_book-1966-coverIt is now three-years-later. Martin, like me, went through a bit of a vocational crisis. He was the pastor of  Renovatus, a thriving church in Charlotte North Carolina, he was happily married, and had a supportive network of friends.  Then came the shipwreck. Martin was a broken man:

I had failed in my marriage. I had failed my church. I had failed my friends. I sailed my own ship into the rocks and both the relationships that mattered most to me and my calling to the church I loved were the casualties. (Kindle location 337 of 3001).

How to Survive a Shipwreck: Help Is on the Way and Love Is Already Here is Martin’s encouragement to fellow castaways. He opens up his journey through the wreckage. He tells of the practices, relationships and the strong loving God that carried him through: Martin writes:

It is possible to fail, and not have our faith fail us. It is possible to lose our lives, and not lose our souls. The master teacher taught us himself that it is only in losing our lives—in their ego pretensions and posturing, in their careful image constructions and neediness—that this richer, deeper, below-the-surface life can be found. This is the life hidden with Christ in God, where almost anything can happen at the top of things without disrupting the grace that lies in the bottom of the sea in you. (Chapter 1, Location 404).

Martin gives only sparse details of the nature of his crisis, but this book isn’t about that. It is about the aftermath. Martin’s shipwreck brought him significant, lived insight about the life of faith and the spiritual journey. He shares about learning to relinquish control, the importance of eating, sleeping and breathing through a crisis, the art of dying, and learning to risk again. He tells of the community and relational connections he made as he found himself in a more vulnerable place.

I enjoy this book as much as Prototype. It comes from an honest place and shows the ways that Martin has grown in the last couple of years. Critiquing his earlier book, Martin writes, “those were things I knew so much more with my head than with my heart, uplifting information that was still turning into revelation inside of me.” He observes the lack of understanding about death in his earlier volume:

I had written a book on Christian spirituality, of which death and resurrection are its central motifs and defining characteristics—and had moved straight from wounds to resurrection. There was nothing in that book about death, because I did not yet know what it would mean to die.  (chapter seven, location 2194).

I love seeing the growth in Martin. And he does walk through shipwreck and crisis and come out the other end. Currently he is a teaching pastor at Sanctuary Church in Tulsa.

I have had this book for months and have been meaning to review it for some time. My own shipwreck was too raw for me when I first got this for me to appreciate Martin’s theme. This is an encouraging, vulnerable read but the truth underlying it is that God is still there, his love is still strong and there is no crisis, failure, or catastrophe that God can’t use to form us. I give this five stars. ★★★★★

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