Beginnings: The First Seven Days Of The Rest Of Your Life, by Steve Wiens
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Tyndale Blog Network/NavPress in exchange for an honest review.]
Beginnings is a book that uses a striking and vivid allegorical interpretation of the week of creation spoken of in Genesis 1:1-2:3 as being figurative of the work of new creation that God does in believers, using each day as symbolic of a different aspect of God’s work and ours as we become a new creation. Although the title of the book sounds like a self-help book, the contents of the book are far more than that, although each chapter of this book is focused on practices that can allow us to live better. What raises this book from the normal book about encouragement and God’s workings with mankind is a combination of the author’s deeply humble and personal discussion of his own life as well as the author’s basic appreciation of what the Bible says, including a surprising, if not entirely biblical, respect for the Sabbath. These elements allow this book to draw a great deal of thought and reflection, and encourage action among its readers, even if that action is as simple, or difficult, as stopping.
In terms of its contents, the book consists of nine chapters. The introduction of the book, Tov, introduces the Hebrew word for good or fine that reminds us that what God has made, including we ourselves, are designed for goodness. This approach provides a welcome contrast to the cold comfort of Calvinism, even though this book does not in any way diminish the reality of mankind’s rebellion and brokenness. What it does delight in is demonstrating God’s ways of encouraging growth in believers through periods of latency and through the refining process of trials and difficulties. The next seven chapters after the introduction consist of allegorical interpretations of each day of creation. Light speaks of the new beginnings that God has for us in our moments of deepest and darkest despair. Expanse speaks of the way that God expands us to reach new levels of growth and maturity, but often at the cost of hollowing us out inside through long years of waiting and difficult experiences. Seeds speaks about the new life that God encourages and that we can see in others, seeking to burst through the confining soil in verdant growth. Seasons speaks of the time in our lives where we happen to reside at a given moment: the winter of desolate waiting and latency, the spring of hope and the beginnings of new life, the summer of glorious growth and richness, and the fall of harvest and loss and approaching darkness. The fifth chapter, Monsters, deals with the vulnerability that it takes to honestly face our fears and overcome the horrors that we have witnessed or experienced. The sixth chapter, Us, looks at the way that God deals with us graciously and created us for His purposes of glory because we were wanted by Him. The seventh chapter, stop, looks at our need for rest, which if it is not given, leads to the sorts of sicknesses and breakdowns that serve as an induced rest. After this comes a chapter on the eighth day, with its encouragement for readers to live in the growth that God has provided through our renewal and restoration in the Eternal.
Throughout the numerous biblical stories, which include some sensitive interpretations of God’s gentle and nurturing side, a part of God’s nature that is not often well recognized, the author discusses his own life with memorable discussions of how he stuttered as a kid and had a hard time finding his voice, the way that his sister had a hard time escaping from an abusive relationship that left her gaunt and empty inside, the struggles the author’s wife had with having three sons under the age of two thanks to having twins, and the long period of waiting where the two of them struggled with not being able to have children at all. This is a book that speaks intelligently to the mind, but also to the frustrated longings of the heart with a sense of both honesty and compassion that is remarkable. This book should be particularly prized by readers looking to view the creation narrative not just in its cosmic scope but also in the personal creation that God works in every believer, a thoughtful and striking perspective that is not always recognized.