Book Review:

Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I've Loved

By Canon Katie

 Written by Kate Bowler

Written by Kate Bowler

 
 

The other day, after pick up from school... 

... my daughter and I swung by the cathedral to pick up something. Of course she had to use the restroom.  While washing our hands, she asked with an earnest curiosity, “Does God brush his teeth here?” I asked her, “what made you ask that?” and she responded, “well, this is God’s house, so this is his bathroom- he must brush his teeth here.” And I swooned.

My biggest fear is being separated from my children by death. To miss moments like the above, or the feel of her hot breath on my neck as she naps on my shoulder. To no longer feel the weight of my son as he barrels at me as fast as he can with joy and excitement when I come home from work. The feared absence strikes without warning: in moments of utter bliss as I watch them sleep or moments of the unforgettable mundane as we get ready for school in the morning.

There is something- to borrow from Glennon Doyle Melton- “brutiful” about watching your worst fear played out in print. Brutal and beautiful: this is Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I’ve Loved. Kate Bowler captures the reader with honesty, humor, and raw emotion as she dives into her story: how to live life in the midst of dying; how to love others when about to say goodbye.

None of us are strangers to loss: but the vulnerability of Kate transforms the story of “someone else” bringing the intimacy of fear and love and longing right into our very lives. This booked allowed for me to face my own fears of “what if” in a way that I anxiously avoid while being comforted and held in the structure of Kate’s story. A difficult but important read, I discovered that as a priest and mother my life needed Kate’s story.

Kate knew full and well that life was not perfect, but she and her family had worked hard to surmount so many obstacles to reach a point of what felt like “happily ever after” with relatively good health, enough money in the bank, and the birth of their son.

And then she was diagnosed with stage IV Colon Cancer.

As a scholar of the prosperity gospel, Kate knew firsthand the despair and longing that people would bring to tents and mega churches around the United States: the pain of life can feel too hard to bear. Living with cancer- and a cancer that has such a slim chance of “beating”- Kate confronts cancer, death and dying, the good will of family and friends, and even the ill will of strangers head on as she opens herself in her writing.

Displaying a vulnerability I have yet to encounter in any other contemporary writer, Kate shares her story not as one who has endured a difficulty and came out on top, but rather as someone in the grey of life with hope in her heart while death lingers in the corner. Pastor Nadia Boltz Weber says that preachers should preach from their scars, not their wounds. Kate preaches with grace and vulnerability from a gaping wound: after all, how much can a wound heal if you are going to die?

If you are in search of a deeper understanding of how to offer pastoral care in the face of overwhelming tragedy: read this book.  If you are looking at you own fears of “what if” and need a guide for the journey: read this book. If you need a theology check on just what it means to be healed, saved or blessed: read this book.

This book is not for the faint of heart or those who shy away from brutal honesty. Rather, this book is for those who look at the reality of life through clear lenses, those who know life isn’t fair, those who have raised their cry to God in the darkest hours of the night and felt the dawn of the new day, or at least have hope for a new light.

This book is for those who know that life can suck, but have hope anyway.

 

Starting Thursday, May 17th, the Women’s Bible Study will be exploring this book AND scripture, as Canon Katie leads a nine week book and bible study series each Thursday at 10AM. Please purchase or borrow and read in advance the book Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I’ve Loved.