Jesus Freak by Sara Miles

Jesus Freak by Sara Miles

After I saw the newer version of Pride and Prejudice, the one with Keira Knightley (also known as the one without Colin Firth), I remember reading a review that said that, after being used to the miniseries’ leisurely pace, this version felt as if Lydia had you by the hand and was pulling you through the story with all of her excitement and passion and quickness. This book felt like that to me: Sara Miles pulling me through the story of Jesus and his love for us. With an excitement and sincerity (tempered with honesty) that seems so distant to me.

I have a lot I could say about this book, but you will be happy to hear that I have decided not to pull my old school DC Talk “Jesus Freak” shirt out and post pictures of it. I could. I saw it when we were unpacking our closet a couple of weeks ago. But I don’t want to get too distracted on that rabbit trail, so maybe I will just save the shirt for another time. Before I tell you about the book, I do want to share with you a quote that is on the back by Brian McLaren. It’s what I would have said about this book, except he said it first. “[Sara Miles is] way too wound up for toned-down liberals, and way too out-of-the-shrink-wrap for straight-laced conservatives, and she calls both of them to a new vantage point. She has actually experienced something, and Someone, and by hearing her story, you start to catch what she’s caught: which includes a sense of being caught, and caught up, and fed, and empowered to feed others. A beautiful, joyful, raucous, reverent book.” Yes, exactly. I am probably a toned-down liberal, and, honestly, I like my religious experiences (and my life) to be a little bit more “safe” and “orderly.” This is a book about the power that God gives us through the Holy Spirit to do the things he commands: feeding the hungry, healing the sick, forgiving, and raising the dead. Sara Miles wants you to know that those are not things that we have lost, here in our jaded modern times. Nor are they things that are safe and orderly (echoing my favorite Annie Dillard quote). And she tells it pretty convincingly. It’s a story I need to be reminded of, the power of this journey that we are on in this life.

As you can see in the picture above, I marked several pages with post-it notes. I am going to share a few quotes with you here (but not all the ones that I marked, because that would take too long). I mentioned back during Advent that our theme had to do with Mary, and that we talked a lot about Mary bearing Christ into the world so that we can now bear Christ in our own bodies as well. Sara Miles had some similar thoughts that resonated with me on that topic.

But [Mary’s] choice is also revolutionary because she submits. Mary sings out her yes without knowing what will happen. Trusting God, Mary opens herself to humiliation, physical pain, dislocation, terror, loss. And yet, just as Jesus will, she calls herself blessed.

Her courage remains a signpost for all humankind–for all the unimportant, frightened, powerless people who doubt that God can work through us. As the fourth-century bishop Gregory of Nyssa wrote, “What was achieved in the body of Mary will happen in the soul of everyone who receives the Word.”

And, similarly:

Because the thing about Jesus, the story turns out, is that he believes in us, the people who betray his love, just as he believed in Andrew and poor frightened Peter. Jesus trusts that humans have the power to truly see him ourselves. He believes that our mortal bodies, our experiences here on earth, are enough to bear and hold God. He knows we can find him in our own flesh, and in the flesh of others.

It seems a simple thing to say that we can bear God in our bodies, but if I am bearing God in my body, shouldn’t I really believe the things that he said about feeding, healing, and raising the dead? Shouldn’t I put myself out there and be uncomfortable and live in the mess? Because mess is exactly what this book is about: the beautiful mess of our lives and our relationships.

Sara Miles doesn’t have all the answers, but she is a writer, and part of her calling is to tell you the story of how Jesus has changed her life and shown her, through working with poor and homeless, through prayer, through walking with people as they strive to follow what Jesus says about forgiveness, through believing that death is not the end. These are powerful, hopeful things. When you hear them too often, you forget how radical forgiveness is, how amazing it is to realize that death is not the end. She has come to accept the title of Jesus Freak because these are, after all, things to be excited about.

One more quote, this one about the woman at the well:

And her thirst leads her to bring others to the well–without telling them what to believe, just by echoing the great door-opening Gospel invitation, Come and see. Jesus transforms the woman without a name, this despised status offender, and she becomes the first person to preach Jesus as Messiah. Which would seem to suggest that salvation does not depend on getting things right. It depends on thirst.

That’s what this book is, summed up in a word: thirst. Sara Miles is thirsting for more of God, and that thirst has changed her life. She would like to share that story with you. I recommend this book (and her other book, Take This Bread, which I also enjoyed immensely) for people like me, who love Jesus but who struggle with the idea of being a Jesus freak.

Wiley provided me with a copy of this book to review.

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4 Comments

  1. This is really interesting. I like the idea of thirst… that’s not something I feel, really, either.

    Also, I think it’s funny that ‘out-of-the-shrink-wrap’ made it through all the editors on McLaren’s comment. What a weird descriptor. 🙂

    Posted 2/2/2010 at | Permalink
  2. Does she talk about thirst as something you can acquire? Or work on? Like how you can get that excitement? I realize this is not a self-help book, but I’m curious to hear if she addressed anything like that.

    Posted 2/2/2010 at | Permalink
  3. That’s a good question. I don’t remember her specifically talking about it, so I can’t speak for her, but if I had to try to guess, I think her answer would be two things:

    1. Something like 2 Corinthians 5 (Christ’s love compels us). Here’s part of what it says in The Message: “If I acted crazy, I did it for God; if I acted overly serious, I did it for you. Christ’s love has moved me to such extremes. His love has the first and last word in everything we do.”

    2. I also think that she would say that it’s in the doing and believing. The more you go out there and experience the way that Christ’s love can change you, the more thirsty you will be for it. Her conversion experience had to do with experiencing God through communion and realizing that she wanted in on that. Which led her to start a food pantry there at the church . . . which, I think, led to many of the thoughts that she puts forth in this book.

    Posted 2/2/2010 at | Permalink
  4. You’ve sold me on this one.

    Posted 2/2/2010 at | Permalink

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