The image below is my endorsement for Seth Haines's new book Coming Clean, out TODAY from Zondervan. And I meant what I said:
In fact, I want to quickly break down my endorsement into three parts, which are really three reasons this book is an absolute must-read. Here goes:
1. Coming Clean is one of the most honest books I've read in ages - or ever.
I guess you might expect this from a book that is called Coming Clean and is (at least in part) about addiction and recovery, honesty being the key ingredient in such endeavors. But even on this topic, and in this genre, our Christian culture is full of varnished narratives that only tell the palatable part of the story. Seth writes from the deepest wounds, the realest scars. His honesty inspires me as a writer, and makes me aspire to this kind of transparency in all of life. I mean, here are the opening lines:
In the late summer, some years ago, I woke one morning to a lavish Christian hangover.
This is the truest way I know tho begin this exposition of coming clean, and though it's still difficult to accept the moniker alcoholic, I know that I am, in the most colloquial sense, dependent. Yes, I am an enjoyable, joyous, exuberant dependent.
I have found that at my most drunk, I am also my most fun. This would be the second truest way I know to begin this exposition of my coming clean.
His preface continues:
Know this three: this is not a program, it is not the last chapter of a journey. This is the beginning - my beginning. Maybe even yours. It is the shedding of the first garment on the way to naked. This is an exposition of my process of stripping off the falsities, of coming clean.
2. Coming Clean is both poetic and prophetic (the best prophecy is poetry), possessing the power to transform.
I don't want to overuse the prophetic descriptor, but Coming Clean is a genuine word from God - a "word from Elsewhere." There is a seizing of the moment here, my moment as a reader, wherein transformation can truly take place. Part of this actually lies in the format - Seth is essentially sharing his journal entries on the road to sobriety. And part of this lies in the beauty and authenticity of the prose:
Tonight I'm sipping tea again, allowing the smoky finish of lapsing to linger, but my brain is misfiring, telling me that the juniper fire of gin is a better fit for this stage of life. Juniper fire is a jealous mistress, an it's all I can do not to miss her.
I have quit Gordon's and tonic, and strange as it may sound, I feel like I've betrayed a family trust. Perhaps my grandfather would be proud. Perhaps he'd feel judged. I don't know.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner. Here's my heart, Lord; take and seal it.
And earlier in that same chapter, some strong hope:
Grandpa Ducky - we called him this on account of the bayou ducks he fed every evening - leaned in, fire on his breath... he said, "You can slay dragons, boy. You can set things right."
3. Coming Clean is about finding - really finding - God's peace, Christ's forgiveness.
At the very beginning, Seth makes it clear what Coming Clean is all about. "Your sin is not the thing. The thing is under the sin. The thing is the pain. Sin management without the redemption of life's pain is a losing proposition."
Yes. That's where it must begin, right? To seek out the power of God, the miraculous healing, without facing the pain, without naming it, would be an exercise in escapism, in denial. Seth considers this conundrum - the reality of pain and the possibility of healing - in regards to both himself and his heartbreakingly ill little boy, whose failing to thrive fuels Haines's own pain and creeping addiction. Of God's power and peace:
What if there is no healing? What does that say of faith - is it too weak a thing? If it is too weak a thing, whose voice to I hear between my ears? Is this the voice of the Spirit or the wanderings of my own crazy, spinning consciousness?
...This is where clarity comes. The new charismatics - yes. Perhaps that term is laced with negative implications for some? Perhaps for me? But what if it's just a way of owning Jesus' promise? "Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age," he said (Matt. 28:20). He is eternal and present. I am going with that.
There will always be lies whispered about new birth. We can own them or not. Today, I chose not.
And on Christ's forgiveness:
It's a lesson that can be taught only by Christ. His forgiveness, his reconciliation - it's quantum. It extends both back through history and forward into our present, and through to the future. Isn't it Christ who made a way for the reconciliation of the patriarchs who were long dead before his day (Heb. 11:8-40)? Isn't it the forgiveness of Christ that reaches into the future and provides reconciliation to us, even today (1 John 3:1)? To be a forgiving people, to be the people of Christ's cross, shouldn't we go back into our own histories and extend forgiveness to those who have brought us pain, shame, and guilt?
Forgiveness is the path to spiritual wholeness, I know. But it is no easy path. And I must begin to walk it.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner. Teach me the meaning of forgiveness.