Falling Free by Shannan Martin reminded so much of Anything by Jennie Allen in the best ways. And like Anything, it took me a while to get through Falling Free. Both books are a punch you in the gut, step on your toes kind of wonderful and that takes time to process. Allen and Martin offer up everything they own and everything they are to God and He does amazing things with them, through them and for them. But while Allen's calling led her to lead a national women's organization, Shannan Martin and her family were called to a transitional neighborhood in a town in northern Indiana.
After selling their dream farm, Martin and her family move into their new neighborhood and learn what true community is. It is here in this "mostly brokeness and decay" that she found her oldest son Robert, a boy with a record and children of his own, but with a heart for generosity. It's here that Martin relinquishes perfect dinner parties in pursuit of true community in yoga pants with tacos.
The community that Shannan writes about scares me. It's messy and doesn't always play by the middle-class rule book. This type of community can feel like it takes more than it gives. The people you surround yourself with may not, and probably should not, look and think like you. But this is Jesus's type of community.
Outcasts, liars, thieves, and self-centered hypocrites to name a few. These are the types of people that Jesus frequently had dinner with. Honestly, Martin points out at one point that Jesus was the epitome of everything that a controlling hostess would NOT want in a guest. He'd just show up and invite a few extra people. The thought of this just makes me sweat! And I realized how unprepared my heart would be if I was lucky enough to meet Jesus just walking in the grocery store.
"You want to come for dinner TONIGHT?! And you want to bring how many friends? Is this a pitch-in? I don't have that kind of grocery budget!"
Yep. That is what my side of the conversation would probably look like.
Falling Free is the kind of book that forces you to make these realizations about yourself. The problem is that now I know. While listening to Joyce Meyer one time, I remember her saying something to the effect that God does not hold us responsible for the things that we don't know, but that once we know them...well, then He expects us to do better.
The good news is that Martin gives amazing advice along with personal anecdotes to make doing better easier. I love her sharing of imperfections and failures along with the lessons that they've taught her. It is so much easier to accept a message from another human being instead of a perfect, spiritual robot. If only I lived closer, I would totally buy Shannan a cup of coffee and hopefully talk for hours.
I know that this book is only the first of many for Martin, because I think we are craving this message of community. More and more I think we want to throw off the Pinterest-worthy lives and just live together. But we're afraid of the mess, of the vulnerability. Books like Falling Free by Shannan Martin can help us to be brave, not because she shows that it isn't messy, but because she shows you that messy might just be what it's all about.
"My Jesus blesses the poor and spits our what the world values.
He demands that I love my neighbor--my orphan neighbor, my starving neighbor, my imprisoned neighbor, my living-off-the-system neighbor--as much as I love myself.
I want this, I do, but there are still days I try hard to convince myself I've let go of enough, that I've met my quota. [...]We all just want to feel something. That' why we overeat, overspend, overcommit. We're numbed by our antiseptic standard of what a "good life" requires, so we squeeze it's limits hoping to feel---respected, envied, cool, capable, smart, proud. It doesn't really matter; we're just so tired of the status quo. We're tired of this crushing restlessness. Our bones and our souls ache with wanting, but our remedies are all wrong."
pg63 Falling Free
Disclaimer: Erika Bault is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.