This book had me with these lines:
“What happens when being radical for God brings you to the edge of disaster?”
It became a priority-read for me. I downloaded the book and immediately saw some of my life between the lines.
I seemed to anticipate the message of the book before I began reading it. It felt like recalling a well-worn tale in which I already knew the ending, although I wanted to just ignore it, skim over it.
But there it was – undeniable…
Someone had bravely lifted her voice and was about to blow the cover off the romantic notions of missionary living.
Spiritual heroism was about to take a hit, and I was going to witness it. But, how could I just passively read about another missionary’s experience, just witness her undoing? No, I was going to ache for every battered expectation, and I knew it. I was going to sigh heavily over every fight with anxiety and tear up for every bit of exposed brokenness – because, oh, how well I could relate.
That evening, I settled back on my couch to read beside my husband, Jay, as he watched football. Eventually, I realized he was no longer watching football and was reading along with me, equally amazed at the honesty and vulnerability of Kay and her husband, Andy’s, story.
After reading almost half of the book that night, I dreamed of island life in the village and wrestled through waves of anxiety. Kay’s story, like a probing magnet, pulled out all sorts of memories and expectations I had long buried.
In this book, Kay Bruner tells her story of how two missionary kids got married and set off to accomplish God’s will as Bible translators. Their conservative, Christian culture affirmed their calling. Yet, perfectionism, a relentless drive to be good enough, and invisible boundaries plagued their years on the island.
The book’s description on Kay’s website says:
When Kay Bruner and her husband, Andy, took their young family to live on an island in the South Pacific, she found the purposeful, adventurous life she’d hoped for—along with isolated living, dangerous sea travel, tropical illnesses, and a floundering marriage. As they worked on a Bible translation project with a local language group, Kay sank into burnout and depression while Andy medicated his stress with a pornography addiction.
And where was God in it all? He was faithful, as He has been to Jay and to me. He was guiding them, pulling them to Himself. Yet, it was through unimaginably difficult circumstances – burnout, depression, moral failure, and an unbending mission organization – that He won Andy and Kay’s hearts to grace and love.
Somewhere in the struggle, they emerged “more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:37) and finally, truly freed from the clutch of rules, standards, and performance.
So, here’s the deal, my friends – I haven’t cooked over an open stove lately (and likely you don’t either).
I don’t fight power outages or sea sickness or cockroaches routinely. We can’t relate to those parts of Kay’s story.
However, I understand the expectations – the ones I have heaped on myself as well as the ones projected upon me. I understand the soul-draining stress of trying to be all things for all people, all under the banner of “God’s call” – and yet feeling completely empty, unfulfilled, and used up at the end of the day. I understand the spiraling effects of caring for everyone else and overlooking my own health. I understand the loneliness, the outsider-feeling, the longing to just connect and be heard.
And, maybe you do too? Kay’s honest words will minister to your heart.
In As soon as I fall, you’ll find a genuine, soul-bearing plea for God’s people to lay aside titles and positions and to find level ground at the cross. You’ll hear a courageous call for real people with real stories of redemption to step up and give God the glory, especially when it means sharing openly and vulnerably. And, most importantly, you’ll experience a tender, loving embrace that quiets the never-good-enough-heart with the assurance of Jesus’ relentless love and grace.
As a final note, while this book applies broadly to Christians everywhere, I must add that I deeply admire Kay Bruner for the voice she has raised specifically on behalf of missionaries and ministry leaders everywhere – real people with real struggles but often set up too high on pedestals for anyone to hear clearly, to really know fully.
And, with this book, I lift my own voice to join the hushed confession: “Ministry is hard. Burnout is real. Is it OK to quit being amazing and just be accepted?”
His answer is “yes.” It always has been. And, this book is an excellent reminder of reasons we forget this as well as the life-giving Love that draws us back into His Father’s heart.
IMPORTANT INFO: You can purchase Kay’s book here. Since this book is one you can’t lay aside without some deep, necessary processing, Kay has provided a free study guide here to help with that. You can stay connected with Kay at her blog http://kaybruner.com
(And, I’ve emailed with Kay – she’s a real person who responds to emails and talks about how scary it is to be vulnerable and how hard it is to deal with the overwhelming amount of needs that can surround us. Feel free to send her an email after you read her book!)
This book review was shared at 34 Magnolia Street.