I will select very carefully who I recommend reads this book. I’ll do so for two reasons:
- The language Nadia uses in her book is going to cause problems for some people. She is raw, she is honest, she is herself. And she can express herself with colorful metaphors better than any other pastor I’ve met. For those who are sensitive to expletives, well…you’d better go read something by somebody else.
- Nadia is telling her story. And Nadia’s story is one that moves, sometimes in a single paragraph, from pain to beauty. That can be a little rugged to read. It’s the real-deal…
This book is to be read cautiously. It is not for everybody, but I wish it was.
So here’s the thing. When I picked up “Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner and Saint,” I had very mixed feelings. I’d heard Nadia Bolz-Weber speak, (including her gig at the ELCA Youth Gathering last summer, where she pretty much hit it out of the park…er…stadium…) and had heard parts of her story. And I wasn’t really in the mood to read another autobiographical story of human fall and resurrection.
Let me be clear: That is not what this book is about.
Pastrix is a book that chronicles an incomplete journey. There is no simple or easy resolution. Like all of us, Nadia lives in a condition of fall and redemption simultaneously. She writes about the journey that to one level or another we all experience. She writes about the Jesus who (though she didn’t see it and denied it) climbed into the crap with her. That’s why even though her experiences are so foreign to me (puking through my nose?) her understanding of the faith, her questions, her doubts, her wonderings all resonate with me, and with those who listen or read.
Nadia’s writing style is compelling. It mirrors her preaching.
And there is some amazing wisdom. She writes that when she meets with new members at House for All Sinners and Saints, one of the things she tells them (and this is a paraphrase) is: “It is not a matter of if, but when we are going to disappoint you. We will. I will say something…the church will make a decision…something will happen that will cause you hurt. So think now about how you will respond when that happens…because it will happen. And you don’t want to be deciding in the heat of the moment how you’ll respond.” I read that and went straight to my senior pastor and said “we need to say this to our people.” Because it’s true. It makes me wonder…if we’d had those conversations with people, if the fallout from 2009 would have been different.
This book is a story of grace and law, as two sides of the same coin. This is a book that tells Nadia’s story, but more importantly the story of God’s love working in someone’s life. This book is one I loved reading, and was sad when it was over.
I’m glad Nadia is a pastor within our church. I’m glad she’s shared her story. This is a book for the church, and the world.