Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Review: "Make a Break for It" by Bill Purvis

Bill Purvis.  Make a Break for It: Unleashing the Power of Personal and Spiritual Growth.  Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2016.  216pp.  $21.99.

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, one defines “direction” as “the path along which something moves, lies, or points” or “an order or instruction to be followed.”  Both are fitting definitions when applied to the realm of spiritual development.  On one hand, we, from the moment we are born to the moment we expire, are moving along a direction.  We have a starting point (mine was in December 1978, in Huntington, West Virginia), and we have will have a stopping date (still working on that one).  The time in between our starting point and our stopping point is the direction of our life, or “trajectory,” as one of my college Bible professors referred to.  We begin, we move along for a while, then we end.  Direction.
            On the other hand, we, from the moment we are born to the moment we expire, are following directions.  Some of those directions are instinctual (crying when we are spanked at birth), some of those directions are intentional (the directions that I give my students in order to complete a paper or project), and some of those directions are accidental (pointing blindly at a wrench when fixing an appliance and your son actually brings you the correct item).  Regardless of the purpose of the direction, we will find ourselves following directions throughout the course of our direction of life.  We begin, we move along for a while, then we end.  Direction.
            Yet, should life not be more than simply follow directions as we follow along a direction?  This is the idea that is at the heart of Bill Purvis’ new book Make a Break for It.  As he writes in the introduction, “Do you ever feel as if your whole life is stuck in a traffic jam, on idle as you wait. . .and wait. . .and then wait some more for a lane to open up so you can get on the fast track to where you want to be?  Or maybe you feel more like you’re in a roundabout.  You keep going around in circles, driving past one exit after another because you don’t have any idea where you’re supposed to go next” (p. 11).  As Purvis argues throughout his book, life should be more than beginning, moving along for a while, and then ending.
            Purvis’ story begins somewhat like you would imagine a published testimony to start—a young man trapped in a broken life fueled by vices.  Yet Purvis’ story is not your usual testimony material.  His testimony includes being stabbed in the heart by a pimp who tried to murder him and his friend.  Just let that line sink in for a moment.  Escaping that moment led Purvis to a true “come to Jesus moment”—a hospital bed confessional that leads to a young man committing his life to not only follow Christ but seek to lead others to Christ. 
However, before you part company with Purvis 20 pages in because you—like me—have a boring testimony, I encourage you to stick with him.  This is not Augusten Burroughs’ This Is How, a brash, abrasive therapy session where you almost feel guilty for not being more broken.  [BTW, I like Burroughs’ book.]  Nor does this delve into sappy sentimental religiosity.  The chapters that follow Purvis’ testimony are carefully-crafted conversations about life, redemption and the self-sacrificial love of God.  It is a book about living well, about moving past excuses and criticisms, about choosing mentors well, and about living the adventure of life. 

This book is about direction—about beginning, about moving along for a while, and about ending.  Yet, Purvis argues, all of this direction should be taken with purpose—purpose which is found in God because it is only God who can give us direction for our direction in life.  So, in Purvis’ words, make a break for it—break away from your direction-less life and allow this redeemed journeyman guide you to a better direction for your life.

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