Spirituality for the Rest of Us


Why would you want to read a book on spirituality written by someone who admits he’s really bad at it?

Right up front, Michael Yaconelli explains that his life is a mess. He describes his Christian walk—“The best I can do is a stumbling, bumbling, clumsy kind of following”—and then asks, “So how can someone unspiritual presume to talk about spirituality? How can someone unholy presume to talk about holiness? It makes no sense.”

I’m so glad Yaconelli didn’t let his struggle to be spiritual stop him from writing Messy Christianity: God’s Annoying Love for Imperfect People. It describes a spirituality, not of monks and ascetics, but for “those of us who live in the city, have a wife or husband, three children, two cats, and a washing machine that has stopped working… those of us who are single, work sixty to seventy hours a week, have parents who wonder why we’re not married, and have friends who make much more money than we do… those of us who are divorced, still trying to heal from the scars of rejection, trying to cope with the single-parenting of children who don’t understand why this has happened to them…” In other words, he proclaims hope for those of us “who don’t have it all together and probably never will.”

I find that incredibly liberating! So many of us go to church and hide behind walls of conformity, doing what is expected and acceptable, answering “I’m fine, thank you” to all who inquire of us. Yet Yaconelli points out that the Bible is full of people who made mistakes, messed up, and otherwise showed their feet of clay. These same people are considered heroes of the faith, not because they were perfect, but because of their relationship with God.

Through chapters dealing with topics such as rejection, discipleship, and spiritual growth, the author butchers sacred cows and demonstrates the triumph of God’s unlimited mercy and grace… His overwhelming love for us. At the risk of appearing to condone sin, Yaconelli urges us to take advantage of our freedom in Christ. If we aren’t failing at times, we probably aren’t risking much either. Sometimes, failure denotes growth.

If you frequently fall short of your spiritual goals, if you feel at times like you don’t belong in the church, if you feel you just can’t “do Christianity right”—this book is for you. Eugene Peterson, in A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, sums it up: “All the persons of faith I know are sinners, doubters, uneven performers. We are secure not because we are sure of ourselves, but because we trust that God is sure of us.”

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