Are you well-settled, my Gardening Friend, into winter: that season of wide expanses for reading and reflecting. Do you carve out larger chunks of time for growing on the inside during this quieter season for your garden?
One of the "new" things I'm doing on that front is reviewing books that specifically reach the heart of this blog--the personal, spiritual touch point of gardening. This first year of the blog has been about answering this question: does gardening express the unique design God imprinted on my soul? With that as the driving force for this first year and as we approach another spring's activity, I thought this book would be a good first review.
Mark Batterson's book, Soul Print, helps a reader define those things that clarify his or her soul print, a thing he claims is as unique as a fingerprint. His model in the book is the Biblical King David, and he looks at how David's days of shepherding began the arches, loops and whorls of a soul print that would eventually encompass giant-slaying and kingdom-leading.
Though the pastor of a large urban congregation in Washington, D.C., Batterson nevertheless writes in a style that employs the humor and turn-about word play typical of a gifted country preacher--making his style a good match for the suburbanite who has a nostalgic heart for rural pursuits.
"The reason we get frustrated is because we think big without thinking long..."
"Too often we allow our circumstances to get between God and us. Holy confidence puts God between us and our circumstances..."
That turn of phrase gives the reader pause as a sentence here or there rises above the others to trigger a deep internal "Hmmmm..." He or she might even open the mental file where Facebook status updates are kept to add a new entry. Batterson begins by exploring the lighter side in taking inventory of personal uniqueness, although he forewarns that "...one key to discovering your soulprint is identifying those disadvantages via careful, and sometimes painful, self-inventory."
Going deeper into the book, however, the reader finds fewer of the tasty little phrases scattered around like Easter candy. In their place, a call to a deeper worship rises; a vision takes shape--one that marks our soulprints as the most unique feature in our worship. Batterson reminds that when a congregation sings the hymn, Great Is Thy Faithfulness, that one song becomes as many "different" songs as there are congregants because each has experienced God's faithfulness uniquely. Each makes it his own song. Thus swells the reader's desire to look long at his or her soul print, seeing the obvious with new wonder, "This is my soul. Mine and mine alone."
After that fresh longing to explore our Divinely-designed identity is established, Batterson's words hit the climax of purpose in his book:
"The way you see yourself is determined by what you base your identity on. And you have lots of choices..."
The last few chapters challenge the reader with the more arduous task of identifying good and bad identity-forming choices. "Too often we underestimate our sinfulness, thereby underestimating God's righteousness. And when we downplay sin, we downplay the grace of God." That country preacher style, direct and unembellished, rises again.
Still, he lightens our hearts as he closes the book, reminding us to joyfully anticipate that moment after this life ends, when God calls us by our new name for the first time. "That name will make your entire life make sense...because God will reveal who you really are. That new name will capture the true essence of who you are, and it will encompass all that you will become in eternity. Your soulprint will finally be given its true name."
Footprints in snow may melt in a day, but soulprints last for all eternity. Batterson serves well as God's apostle with this message.
(I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.)