In Lacey Sturm's first book, The Reason, she explains how God rescued her from suicide at the age of sixteen and gave her life purpose. In her second book, The Mystery, Sturm wrote about the mistakes she made with her love life and how God redeemed it for His glory. When I heard Sturm was working on her third book, I was curious as to what it would be about. Then in October of 2017, it was finally available for Amazon preorder: The Return: Reflections on Loving God Back. I eagerly preordered, though I had a feeling this book was going to be much different from its predecessors. When the book arrived, I realized I was right.
Just looking through this book, it is clear a lot of painstaking thought went into putting it together, from the metallic gold embossed cover to the detailed artwork inside (Sturm's husband created all the illustrations for this book). Each chapter is preceded by a corresponding section that includes a topical Bible study, a prayer from Sturm, Sturm's personal to-do list, an excerpt of original song lyrics (some of which haven't been released before), a family recipe, and a nightly Bible reading. In addition, Sturm has also included some journal entries and poems throughout the book, which illustrate the theme of each chapter in a different way.
While The Reason and The Mystery had clearly defined narrative arcs, The Return does not tell one big story; instead, each chapter tackles a different aspect of Sturm's life that she has "returned" to God, surrendering it to Him and and obeying what He reveals about how to steward what He's given her. For example, in "Chapter 8: Flow," Sturm explains how God has convicted her to return her judgments. This is especially demonstrated in the journal entries she included with this chapter, one in which Sturm recounts a conversation with her mother where they had a disagreement about the environmental benefit of using cloth diapers over disposable ones. This moment looks mundane on the surface, but in Sturm's eyes each experience is a teachable one, and at the end of this entry, Sturm learns to empathize and understand her mother's perspective, realizing that while we should try and do our part, God ultimately takes care of the earth.
Another chapter that stood out to me was "Chapter 12: Light of Freedom & Diamond of Truth," in which Sturm explains how in the kingdom of God, we are all supposed to learn from each other. Our differences in our opinions can be a good thing, because they allow us to understand a different aspect of God's truth. As Sturm writes, "most of our differences are permissible." This chapter was important to me as a reader, because while reading through this book I found there were several times when my views were challenged, simultaneously Sturm was recounting a time when her own views were challenged. I didn't always agree with Sturm's opinions, but that's usually the case with many non-fiction Christian books I read.
It wasn't until I neared the end of the book that it dawned on me that this book is not necessarily prescriptive, but rather reflective. The subtitle is "Reflections on Loving God Back." Sturm is sharing her faith journey with us; she is not telling us to copy it. Like with her previous two books, Sturm doesn't tell readers what to do, but lets her story speak for itself--and readers can glean from it whatever truths they need. I must exhort readers like myself not to get hung up on the details, because they will miss the bigger idea Sturm is driving home here about stewardship and giving the gifts God has given you back to Him.
This book challenged me, both intellectually and spiritually. The writing here is a little more dense and poetic than in Sturm's previous work, and it's truly meant to be savored slowly. I recommend reading this book one chapter at a time, rather than plowing through it all at once. On a spiritual level, Sturm's transparency will inspire readers to examine their own souls and see if there are any areas in their lives they are withholding from God, as well as how they are stewarding everything that God has entrusted to them. Bottom line: while The Return is not streamlined like Sturm's previous two books, it is certainly worth reading, and readers will see a return on the time invested in reading it.- Review date: 6/6/18, written by Nicole Marie Vacca of Jesusfreakhideout.com
Publisher: Baker Books
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