By Leigh McLeroy, 252 pages.
Leigh McLeroy makes biblical stories strikingly, powerfully immediate to her own life. Individual episodes from her life, such as escaping a hurricane on hopelessly clogged highways with one million other people evokes straightforward and clear, yet intimate, theological reflection on the exodus of the Israelites.
With modern readers in mind, she notes that the goal-oriented Israelites simply aimed to run away from the Egyptians, while process-oriented Yahweh pushed them to understand the deeper meaning of the journey of the exodus and how the experience could change their hearts.
The Beautiful Ache exemplifies a living biblical theology, which is central to Christianity since many under-enthusiastic Christians characterize church as boring or unconnected to their personal lives. McLeroy shows how these complaints reflect not the essence the faith but only the boredom and mediocrity of many believers.
Interestingly, the author roots this practice in her deep, C.S. Lewis-inspired contention that her lack of fulfillment in this life must point to the fact that we were not made for this world, but for another. Paradoxically, this doesn't mean that she has an attitude problem with this world:
“I live en route, in between. And as much as I dream of heaven, I love this life on earth. I love the sights and sounds and smells of it, the faces of family and friends, and the comforts of music and art and laughter and delicious meals.... Still, I yearn for what I haven't gained but have only glimpsed. I long for more than the simple goodnesses I have known.”
She likens her life, in other words, to the journey of the exodus – a simple, traditional point made relentlessly and countlessly over the centuries. When Christians fail to live out and preach simple points like this, our churches get into all sorts of trouble by wandering off into agendas and utopia-building.
The author reads her life's stories into biblical episodes so well because she understands the ingredients to a great and meaningful tale. She tells of attending a horse-whispering show, where untamed horses befriend humans for the first time, and weaves it into her own life by finding its deeper meaning:
“Something big had happened here. We had been given text and subtext. A story had unfolded before us with all its integrative parts: antagonist, protagonist, conflict, climax, resolution.”
Thinking of life's tidbits as part of one long-running movie -- one's life -- which in turn is participating in a longer-running movie -- Sacred or Biblical-Christian History -- undergirds a lot of powerful Christian imagery. Rather than meaningless, our individual lives are participating in something enormously big and important.
McLeroy's humility and spiritual sense bring this out in her book, addressing topics such as work, home, and suffering.