EVERYTHING: What You Give and What You Gain to Become Like Jesus. By Mary DeMuth. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2012. Xvii + 205 pages.
There was something familiar about this book. It took me back in time to my days as a youth and young adult living in a more Pentecostal/Charismatic subculture. The tone and flavor is inviting, gracious, life affirming while at the same time pushing one heavenward. Give your life to Jesus and things will be okay – not perfect – but okay.
The message of the book is clearly stated in the title – the goal is to be like Jesus, and that involves giving your life completely to him. There will be joy, though not always success. Mary DeMuth is an author and former church planter in France. She tells us much about her spiritual journey, though the specifics are left ambiguous. We’re not told, for instance, the name or identity of the faith community to which she belongs or through which she did church planting. It does seem as if she is part of a Pentecostal Community, like the ones I was part of years ago. Not hard-edged Pentecostal, but more the softer, gentler kind. The only real point at which she makes this identification however is when she shares her experience with speaking in tongues. But even this is brief and then we move on.
DeMuth divides her book into three parts that focus on the Head (what we think), the Heart (who we are), and Hands (how we live).
She writes with regard to the Head that “what we think about God, His World, and ourselves determines our growth story.” Her focus is on the ways in which giving one’s self to Jesus, helps overcome errors in thinking, especially regarding one’s own identity, and how this transforms one’s life.
The head isn’t enough – one must also live authentically from the heart, allowing God to bring healing and transformation. In a chapter entitled “holy inebriation,” DeMuth speaks of becoming drunk with the spirit, or overwhelmed by Jesus’ presence. As a result persons, who are holy inebriated, lack spiritual inhibition, don’t care what others think, and can’t get enough of God. This is a section in which DeMuth’s own sense of brokenness, especially her childhood becomes apparent – as well as her sense of healing as a result of her encounter with Jesus.
Finally, she comes to the hands – or the way we live. In the course of several chapters she speaks of spending money, battling spiritual darkness, facing failure, community, and spiritual disciplines. Her message is one of faithfulness rather than painlessness. Her vision isn’t, as is sometimes the case in her circles, one of convenient, successful life. It is instead, a willingness to engage in discipleship. She writes that “to follow is to give up our lives, particularly our expectations of how our lives should be. We need to let go of our presumptions about the life we should have and let Jesus dream a new dream for us” (p. 161).
In her epilogue DeMuth attempts to bring the story together, head, heart, hands, and focus on the centrality of Jesus to the life of faith. Her message is simple – following Jesus should lead to joy. It should involve letting go of fear. He is, in her estimation, “everything.”
What gives power to DeMuth’s book is the back story. It is her childhood, which according to her account involved a life of childhood rape, drug abuse by family members, and neglect. But she found healing and wholeness – emotionally, physically, spiritually – in her encounter with Jesus, especially in the form of what appears to be a gentle Charismatic community. She has had her successes and her failures, but the journey has led to joy. Whether or not we’ve experienced all of her own realities, DeMuth’s book should resonate with many, especially those who are evangelical and charismatic.
The author or publisher has included discussion questions at the end of each chapter, making this a useful resource for those seeking to explore the journey of faith together with others on the road. It’s not exactly Bible Study, but the chapters and the questions raise issues that will make for a good discussion – depending on your perspective, of course.
This review is a contribution to the TLC Book Tour.