What Book Has Challenged You?

Have you ever read a book that challenged you in such a way that you felt like you were never the same after?  Yes?  Please post about it in the comments!!  (I am re-printing and editing the rest of this post from my old blog because Ortberg’s book remains one of my all-time favorites.  Also – I love his work so much I have e-mailed him twice.  Okay, so maybe he never responded.  I still think he’s totally boss.  🙂

My Major Malfunction

July 28, 2008

I know what you’re thinking.  How could the person in that photo be anything BUT incredibly well-adjusted?  As my sis-in-law Jamee would say, “YEAH… except for NOT.”  In my life I’ve done a LOT of soul searching and I am always, always trying to put my finger on that one big barrier to total peace or complete faith.

To that end, I am FINALLY making my way through an entire Bible Study.  Actually, does it qualify as a Bible Study if it’s just a book that references scripture and has some questions in each chapter?  I’m halfway through and and I’ve had something of a breakthrough.  Before I get to that, though, here is the book:

And here is ME when the ladies I go to church with first recommended this book.  “Boat?  What boat?  I’m not in any boat, I don’t need to get out of any boat, this is not relevant to me at all!”  Yeah, except for NOT (it’s addictive, Jamee).

This book by John Ortberg is based on Matthew 14:25-32 – the story of the Disciples watching Jesus walk on water and Peter trying to walk on water, becoming afraid, sinking, and Christ rescuing him… “Ye of little faith…”

So far, I am really enjoying this book.  Especially because Ortberg takes the stance that it is unfair for Peter to be thought of as cowardly for lacking faith, when he was the only person on the entire boat with the cajones to actually step out and try to walk on water (editor’s note: Ortberg does not use the term cajones).  Ortberg encourages the reader to figure out what their boat is and then to step out in faith in order to strengthen their relationship with God.

Want to know what your boat is?  Your fear will tell you.  Just ask  yourself this:  What is it that most produces fear in me – especially when I think of leaving it behind and stepping out in faith?

I really wracked my brain as I delved into the first hundred pages of this book over the weekend.  What is my boat?  What is the thing that holds me back?  And then, the lightbulb went off.  FEAR.  FEAR is my boat.  Isn’t that interesting?  The thing that I most fear leaving behind is – FEAR.

I guess I should explain.  To call me a “worrier” is an understatement of the highest order.  You know when people say, “I have to have something to worry about?”  Much to my (and my husband’s) chagrin, the phrase “She came, she saw, she worried” could be engraved on my tombstone some day.  I bring my husband into this because he, as any other adult who has lived with me (including my immediate family and past roommates and college friends Larissa, Sara, Katie, Lynn, Stacy and so many others) knows, I worry that if I have nothing to worry about – nothing to FEAR – THAT’s when something bad is going to happen.  I just know it.

And so I have lived much of my life that way – an unhealthy fear that I stifle way down deep inside except for those few friends and family who I trust enough to see my dirtiest, darkest secret.  Fear is my crack, worry is my ecstasy, obsessing is my Mountain Dew.  Actually, Mountain Dew is my Mountain Dew, but something really caffeinated and addictive, that’s what obsessing is to me.

I have tried before, but finally feel ready to find a way to STOP IT for a multitude of reasons.  I think it holds me back in my faith.  Plus, I’d like something way cooler on my tombstone, something like – She Came, She Saw, She Danced.  OR no tombstone at all, really, please use the money instead to build a well in Africa.  OH, but how I digress.

Ortberg quotes Eileen Guder’s great thoughts on fear:

You can live on bland food so as to avoid an ulcer, drink no tea, coffee or other stimulants in the name of health, go to bed early, stay away from night life, avoid all controversial subjects so as never to give offense, mind your own business, avoid involvement in other people’s problems, spend money only on necessities and save all you can.

You can still break you neck in the bath tub, and it will serve you right.

There are countless reasons for me to get out of my fear boat, but chief among them is, as Ortberg writes: “The water is where Jesus is.”  Getting out of my boat will bring me closer to Him.  This book reminds us that our lives need to stand for something and I have so many things I really would like to do – I’d like to really be good at what I do in the non-profit sector, working with families in need, I’d like to write a book, I’d like to serve better, I’d like to be a great wife and mother and eventually grow our family.  Ultimately, though, I think I finally need to slay this FEAR dragon once and for all.  Ortberg writes:

All human beings, including you and me, give their lives to something.  Between this day and your last day, you will give your life to something.  The only question is, what will you give your life to?  Will it be worthy?  […] Let me get more personal.  You had better respond at once. […] Fear makes people bury the treasure God has given them. […] Look at most sin – yours and mine – and underneath it you will find fear.  […] Therefore, our lives are not about self-preservation and fulfillment, but are to be acts of stewardship.  To fail to be good stewards of what God has given us is a form of robbing Him.

I hope you don’t mind these little interruptions to share with you what I’m learning.  For some reason I feel it is important for me to share this here.  For the longest time I have been afraid (there’s that darn fear again) to do that, but I’ve found in my life, it is the people who have been willing to open up to me that have made the biggest impact on my faith.  Final thoughts from Ortberg:

The single command in Scripture that occurs more often than any other – God’s most frequently repeated instruction – is formulated in two words:  Fear not.   Do not be afraid.  Be strong and courageous.  You can trust me.  Fear not.

A NOTE:  I still struggle with my “fear boat.”  I “fear” (ha!) that I always will.  But I try to work on it every day.  It’s a journey, just like everything else.  DONT’ FORGET TO POST YOUR BOOKS THAT INSPIRE OR CHALLENGE YOU BELOW.  You can see my list of books that challenge me here.




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6 responses to “What Book Has Challenged You?

  1. Gregg

    I still find myself wallowing in Dostoyevsky. Every time I reread one of his books, I find I missed half the important stuff the last time around and wonder how I could be so dumb. Then I remember: it’s Dostoyevsky.

  2. Karen

    Crazy Love by Francis Chan.

  3. Arjan Hodges

    I couldn’t see the pictures, but as I read on, I realized I read this exact book years ago-i’d say about 7? funny!! it is Wonderful!! That one had a huge impact on me and continues to, thanks for the reminder-I’ll have to get it back out and take a gander again! I just read an incredible book called The Shack by Wm Paul Young. Wow…..get your tissues out….mind blowing. I learned things I’d never heard of before on an image of God and who he really is and his interpretation of what God hopes for from us and sees in us was so beautifully illustrated and uplifting-many of my views that were limited have been changed dramatically. He also talks about fear here and letting go of it. Because it’s something I may always struggle with a bit, I continutally learn more and more about it as God shares his wisdom a little at a time. Highly recomended!! I also have always struggled with getting through the entire bible-The Shack has changed my outlook on that as well and now I need a plan of “attack” for lack of better words-I’ll look into this one you’re doing! Thanks for this blog-I’m always looking for something to better who I am as well. Peace is right there, when we’re open to it!

    • Hey AJ – I have that book! My mom and dad told me I’d like it, but I haven’t read it yet, I thought it might be too terrible (I just read the premise about a missing child or something?). I will give it a chance, tho! Hey, I have had a hard time reading the Bible too because the early Old Testament books bog me down and get my analytical mind really confused. It so hard to reconcile some of that with Christ. I think I’m going to have to just read through the New Testament completely and go back to the OT. Love ya

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