Thanks to MOPS International mailing out 110,000 copies of my book Breathe in May, lots of folks are reading it over the summer. And many of them have written to me with questions, observations, critiques. I really do appreciate hearing from everyone.
Here's one question that a reader posed, and since it's one that others have asked about as well, I thought I'd answer it here.
She asks: "I have a question about chapter 8... I am confused by the story of the Jewish girl named Naomi. I understand the beauty and focus of Shabbat however, I don't understand the piece about her getting a divorce. Why was this included in the book? The Jewish faith is rich in tradition but lacks the focus of Christ and divorce is the last resort in the Christian faith. I felt like I was missing something. I had to reread 3 times to see that I had not. I was left with confusion on why a Christian author and Christian organization (MOPS) would include something like this. We are doing a bible study on this book and are not sure how to explain this."
If you haven't yet read Breathe, it's about simplicity, slowing and Sabbath. It includes the true stories of real women. the chapter that includes Naomi's story is about Sabbath. Since Sabbath is a practice of both Jews and Christians (and frankly, a much richer tradition in the Jewish faith), and because Naomi has a compelling story, she agreed to be interviewed.
As a journalist, I don't get to decide the facts of people's lives. So Naomi's story is her story, not mine. I'm just conveying it, asking questions about the parts that interest me. I wanted to give a glimpse of her spiritual journey, which is in large part a Sabbath journey.
Other readers have asked why I'd include the story of a Jewish person in a Christian book. Well, the Bible is a Christian book and the overwhelming majority of its stories are about Jewish people. I'm not trying to be flippant, but it sometimes seems like we forget that the roots of the Christian faith are in Judiasm. And that Jesus was in fact Jewish. I'm not suggesting we convert to Judiasm, but only to be aware of and appreciate our faith heritage. To not be afraid of it.
I wrote back to this reader to remind her of that, and also, to try to address her question about divorce. Christians divorce at about the same rate as the general population. Perhaps we feel more guilt about it, but it does happen. And the reasons are never simple. But I included that fact in the book because it affected Naomi's life, especially her practice of Sabbath, which was the focus of the chapter. And God used that painful situation to draw her toward himself, and toward loving others. That's a step of growth in her journey.
Also, here's the thing about how I write--because I know myself to be stunningly imperfect, I prefer to tell stories of people who are real, people who don't have every little aspect of their life neatly boxed and shelved. Group leaders who've written to ask about Naomi and why she's in the book only made me question the other stories--were those people too perfect? While we need role models, we also need to know that no one, even role models, is perfect. Ife we think we can't learn from people who are in a different place spiritually, then the fact is we simply can't learn from people at all.
If you lead a group, don't worry so much about "how to explain" everything. Spiritual growth is less about figuring out the answers as figuring out which questions are even worth asking.
Think about Jesus. Did he typically "explain" things? Or did he answer people's questions with more questions?
I love Naomi, she's a friend and a treasure. She's on a spiritual journey just like the rest of us. She's asking questions, and I hope those questions resonate with readers.