Paperback: 176 pages
Publisher: Moody Publishers; New Edition edition (July 24, 2012)
Pain, suffering and sacrifice are dirty words in today’s world, meant to be avoided at all costs. In the process, the meaning and value have been lost.
Wrecked: When a Broken World Slams into Your Comfortable Life, the impressive debut book by Jeff Goins not only restores the meaning to suffering and sacrifice, but exhorts the reader to value, embrace and learn from them.
In the first chapter, Goins (who is the Communications Director for Adventures in Missions, a nonprofit organization) describes the conversations with young missionaries that make up the bulk of his work, and how each of their stories had the same theme: lives changed forever through painful, often messy experiences. The stories spoke of transformation, sacrificial love and a totally different view of life. In each conversation the word wrecked was used (Goins, Wrecked, p. 30).
Using storytelling and a simple, journal-like style he goes on to share specific episodes of being wrecked, including his own experiences. The first one involved an encounter with a homeless man that quickly developed into a relationship. All of a sudden the “poor”and “homeless” was embodied in a flesh and blood person with a name. It was a first of many experiences that would alter Goins’ life course forever.
Wrecked is an important book, “slamming” into the conventions of 21st century life: “Our culture is so individualistic and wired for success that we often miss the point of life. We think it’s about self-actualization, about becoming the best version of ourselves. It’s not. It’s about losing ourselves.” (Goins, Wrecked, pg. 48)
It is counter to everything society says is necessary for “the good life:” “We are conditioned to believe life is supposed to be comfortable. But ask anyone like my friend Matt who has radically changed his life, and they’ll tell you the best decisions they made were when they were uncomfortable … What we have to learn to do is lean into the things that hold us back, to move through the pain and push forward.” (Goins, Wrecked, pg. 50)
It gets to the core of the Christian Gospel, a core that is often sanitized, glossed over in favor of the warm and fuzzy “God loves you.” Instead, Wrecked confronts the Cross: “If we are to follow the Jesus who suffered with us and bled for us, we too must suffer.” (Goins, Wrecked, pg. 41).
Wrecked imparts its message without mucking it up with a lot of “church speak.” This book, although produced by a Christian publisher, speaks clearly to all people with a language that anyone who is searching for the meaning of his or her life will understand.
Even though Goins devotes many pages to mission work and social justice (as this is his experience), don’t be fooled by this emphasis - this is not a book on becoming a missionary. Wrecked is the handbook for the Millennial generation. A Millennial himself, Goins spells out the problems, diagnoses them and offers the cure.
Wrecked also shouldn't be construed as just another self-help book or spiritual guide. It is rather the authentic account of someone who writes honestly, understands spirituality and has "been-there-done-that."
There are imperfections in the book. Goins' trajectory for the life journey (having adventures when you're young and making long-term commitments as you get older) is sound but rigid. He maintains that if you don’t have these adventures when you are young, you will spend the rest of your life trying to recapture your youth or relive old dreams (Goins, Wrecked, pg. 87).
Obviously that is true in many cases but what he doesn’t take into account are late bloomers and the whole idea of second chances. Many older women especially made their commitments first (marrying, having children, working) and once reaching the empty nester phase, began to explore new options. Several of these women myself included) have embarked on late life adventures, having experienced much wrecking in their lives already caring for and then losing elderly parents, spouses, friends or even children.
The other problem with Wrecked is one that occurs again and again with regards to Christians and service – that of putting the horse before the cart.
When Jesus was asked about the greatest commandment (in Matthew 22), he presented two: loving God and then loving neighbor, making it clear that loving God needed to comes first. This teaching asserts that a personal, loving relationship with the Creator results in a pouring forth of grace which empowers the individual to love and serve their neighbor. Being immersed in God reveals Him in others and the desire to serve becomes irresistible.
Goins mentions the Gospel story of Martha (the busy one) and Mary (the contemplative one) (Luke 10:38-42) but fails to follow through with Mary and the need to take the time to sit at the feet of God. It’s hard to tell if he assumes the reader understands the importance of taking time with God first. He does stress the importance of taking care of one’s inner life and makes it clear the need to let go and allow God to lead but a more direct connection between taking care of ourselves and allowing God to take care of us would have been preferred.
That being said, I bought a copy of Wrecked as a going-away present for my Millennial son who has relocated to New York City from sleepy central Massachusetts.
I also intend to use it with my eleventh-grade Sunday school class. And I've recommended it to a deacon friend of mine who runs a young adult book club at his church.
My advice: commit yourself to Wrecked.
Copyright 2012 Susan Bailey
About the Author
Susan Bailey is the author of River of Grace: Creative Passages Through Difficult Times (Ave Maria Press), and Louisa May Alcott: Illuminated by The Message (ACTA Publications), part of their Literary Portals to Prayer series. Along with her blogs Be as One and Louisa May Alcott is My Passion, Susan writes for the Diocese of Worcester newspaper, The Catholic Free Press.