Thursday, November 17, 2011

Buck Naked Faith

When I was a kid, my parents used to tell me that doing certain things would stunt my growth.  Usually, the purpose of telling me this was to keep me from performing some undesirable behavior.  Let's face it, nobody wants to be have their growth stunted. 

To have your growth stunted, is obviously a bad thing.  There is one instance, however, where the goal is to stunt the growth of the object.  That would be in the art of bonsai.  The goal of the bonsai artist is to inhibit the growth of the tree so that it appears to have weathered obstacles and grown strong, but in reality it is all just an illusion.

In Buck Naked Faith: A Brutally Honest Look at Stunted Christianity, Eric Sandras compares the life of faith as one that is either superficial and weak like the bonsai tree, or one that is real, strong, and growing. As somebody who has had issues staying solid within the Christian community and someone wanting to develop a real Christian world view, the book intrigued me.

One of the things that has occurred in my own spiritual life is to be surrounded by those with the appearance of having the Christian walk down pat.  Playing the church game was all about doing and saying the right things.  On those occasions when I would struggle or stumble, I felt like I could not share those who were supposed to be my cohorts in the walk.

I remember the first time I had one such incident that forced me to walk away from a group I had been a large part.  It was a Baptist group, so we did not drink alcohol.  I had just been laid off from one job and my car wouldn't start.  I felt like having a beer.  When I confessed this "sin" to one of my friends from the group, rather than support, I received a condescending, "Oh, Richard," like I had committed the worst of acts.

Sandras feels that in order to actually develop a vibrant, growing Christian faith, we need to shed the veneer of acting as if we have it all together.  We need to be able to ask questions and struggle.  We need to be transparent with one another and share those burdens, doubts, and struggles.  From the very first chapter, Sandras shares some of his own struggles and failures and how he had to struggle to get through those difficult times.

Throughout the book, Sandras looks at the various techniques the bonsai artist uses to create the bonsai tree.  He then compares that with the walk of faith and how to go counter to the bonsai artist that creates a real and growing faith rather than one that only appears to be real and strong.  It was a book that due to my past struggles was one that I really enjoyed reading.
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