Book Review: This Beautiful Mess

This Beautiful Mess, by Rick McKinley, made me uncomfortable. I feel pretty comfortable in my nice house with my nice husband who has a nice job and provides me with lots of nice things. McKinley’s book challenged me to consider my life’s agenda and priorities. As I read, I wondered if I cling to my stuff too tightly, if I love the underprivileged too little, if I value my health and wealth too much.

“When I became a Christ follower, the sad truth is that I transferred Christ into my kingdom, into the context of my life. My kingdom consisted of my desires and aspirations – the future I hoped for, an agenda that allowed me to reign as I chose….I was simply trying to get God to endorse my agenda.”

In writing this book I don’t think he intended that we should all be flinging our possessions out the window or giving away all our money. That’s not really the point he is trying to make. Yes, he challenges us in the areas of money and time and possessions and other things, but what I took away was mostly a challenge to my heart and motives: do I live as if I experience the kingdom of God now? Or do I live more like a placeholder on Earth, waiting for the next train to heaven?

“I realized that most of Jesus’ followers lived pretty much like everyone else — except we hoped for heaven. The Christian life began to look like one long waiting game of Bible studies and boring parties. If I was lucky, a bus would hit me and I’d go straight to heaven.”

His call in every issue that he addresses is not a call to start a program. He calls us to engage in relationship. He calls us to love. He calls us to empathy. Here are some quotes from the book that struck me in particular:

If you set out right now to tell the story of your encounters with the King of heaven, I wonder what you would say. What foolish tantrums and ugly battles could you describe as you think about how you have tried to get God to serve your kingdom?

…we try so hard to be cool. We say we need to have relevant music, relevant programs, relevant parking….We become relevant when we are committed to being that signpost of heaven in some part of our world. When we study Scripture, we find that relevance happens naturally when we choose to be real people caring for other real people. Even the real people who are not like us. Even the real people who don’t hesitate to hate us. Authentic relationships make us relevant.

No doubt about it, money is a profound dilemma. How do I value money without being owned and corrupted by it? How do I steward everything I have for God while taking responsibility for putting bread on the table and a roof over our heads? When is my giving, no matter how generous, more about me than someone else?

Giving [money] in the context of relationship also steers us toward giving the kind of help the recipient actually needs – not the help we’re guessing they need or that is convenient for us to give.

I notice, though, that my freedoms shape my expectation, and my expectation is simple and powerful: that suffering is to be avoided at all costs.

I definitely recommend this book to read. To be honest, it starts out a little simple. And as someone who has been around the church awhile, I was a little like, duh. But I kept reading, knowing my attitude was likely arrogant. McKinley lays the foundation in the first two sections of the book, but the third section, “Practicing the presence of the kingdom,” is the section that was most convicting to me because he describes real life examples of people he knows – not theories or great ideas.

2 thoughts on “Book Review: This Beautiful Mess”

  1. Sounds like a great, challenging book…thanks for the recommendation. If you haven’t read “Irresistible Revolution” by Shane Claiborne, its a good one too addressing some of these issues. He’s very radical, and a lot of what he said made me uncomfortable but that’s not always a bad thing…I’m too often safe in my comfort zone…

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