Last week I had the privilege of serving on the teaching team with Jerry Sittser at a conference for pastors and elders in Spokane, Washington. I’ve known Jerry from afar for over two decades, and it was a joy to get to know him as my new friend. After I graduated from Northwestern College (IA) in the late 70’s, he became the college chaplain. However, a few short years after arriving on that campus, tragedy struck his family when in a car accident his mother, wife and daughter were killed. Overnight, Jerry became a single, widowed father of his three remaining children. Several years later, he wrote A Grace Disguised, which has since sold nearly a quarter of a million copies as it focuses on the meaning of suffering and grief.
In this long-awaited companion, A Grace Revealed reflects back on his personal story and how God has been in the work of redeeming that story within the larger narrative of God’s Grander Narrative. With story as the overall image of the book, Sittser invites his readers to consider their own personal story within that same wider and eternal story. Jerry masterfully and gently brings us into the details of the biblical text, particularly via the stories of Joseph and Ruth, and then introduces individuals from church history and the modern day to complement how one’s redemptive story unfolds.
Subtitled “How God Redeems the Story of Your Life,” Sittser’s outline is masterfully organized around the main parts of a story: characters in search of a story (and vice versa: a story in search of characters), scene and setting, plot, author, time table, the Spirit of the story, the beginning, and the end. He reminds his readers that all of us remain suspended “in the middle” of the story of redemption, the grand narrative of God’s that began in the garden and ends when all is complete, whole, perfect and eternal.
There were many parts of the book that captivated my interest and imagination. The book begins with a marvelous image of a well worn tree, with strong roots, but beautifully weathered over time…I love such metaphors of the spiritual life. He shares a story of Michelangelo’s artistic genius in bringing characters to full life by chiseling them out of blocks of marble. He lingers in the stories of Joseph and Ruth, two of my favorite biblical characters, both of whom lived well in the midst of fascinating redemptive stories. He shares with us from the history of the church, which just so happens to be his academic discipline, and encourages us to embrace the lives and prayers of saints such as Cassian, Augustine, Calvin, Aelred, Luther, and Teresa of Avila. And, he willingly and movingly shares his own story, with details that bring tears to the eye and warmth to the heart.
A Grace Revealed helps the reader excavate the myriad details of our own stories so that we can begin to understand more fully how God is at work crafting a wonderful story through our own lives as well. The gift that this book offers to those willing to see how God is sculpting His preferred image out of the complex intricacies of our daily lives is monumental. Let Jerry Sittser be your guide toward the revealing of God’s grace in, through and around you. You’ll be glad you entered the journey through this welcoming and riveting door of transformation.