Lost & Found: Finding Hope in the Detours of Life by Sarah Jakes – A mixed message from my persepctive

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“Lost and Found” is a story of grace meant to reach those who believe they’re so broken, so ashamed, or so lost that there is no hope.  Author Sarah Jakes shares openly about the choices she made throughout her teens in the hope that her readers will learn from her experiences and find hope and restoration in their own circumstances.  While her intent is clear, and her desire to share her story for the sake of others is admirable, I felt her message was mixed.  But more on that later; here’s what I did like:   

Ms. Jakes conveys a number of great insights throughout this book, such as the lie that a façade is easier to live with than the truth and that you’re “in trouble” if you are not free to think, feel, or communicate in a relationship.  She sheds light on the vicious cycle of eroding self-value and destructive relationships, and most importantly, she communicates that God’s grace is always available to us- no matter what.

I admire Ms. Jakes for sharing her story and I think she has great wisdom to impart to others who struggle with the belief that they are unworthy of love, or that somehow they’ve made such a mess of life that they can never find freedom.  I also think her story will resonate with those who have given up on Christianity either because of the mistaken belief that they just can’t measure up to everyone’s (perceived) expectations or because they grew up “in the church” and learned to resent it for various reasons.

But here’s what I struggled with:

Ms. Jakes is very brief when it comes to sharing the details of her experiences, but she’s quite verbose when it comes to analyzing them.  For every paragraph of narration there are probably five paragraphs of rambling, metaphoric introspection that go back and forth between Ms. Jakes either rationalizing her choices or imparting the wisdom of hindsight to her readers.  These are two distinct voices- one exploring her self-identity and the other dispensing self-help concepts- but they’re used interchangeably, and this leads to textual incoherency because at times you can’t tell when exactly she switches from rationalizing to advising.  

The author also frequently uses confusing terminology that caused me to reread passages several times in an attempt to decode her meaning.  Here’s an example:

“I’ve seen so many people lose their way in ministry because they were unwilling to pretend to have it all together.”  What does this mean? Is she saying we should pretend to have it all together so we don’t lose our way?  I truly don’t think that is her intention, but I didn’t get it (I strongly suspect my understanding of ‘ministry’ [service] differs from hers).

Here’s another example that had me scratching my head:

“Ultimately, in most relationships I think we confuse love and respect.  The two are not mutually exclusive, but I had no way of knowing that because I had never known love that didn’t come with respect.” Again, I’m not quite sure what this means, or how it is that we confuse love and respect in most relationships, or how this distinction applied to her circumstances.  But I can say that the frequency of rambling, ambiguous, and awkward sentences such as these made for difficult reading.  There were also numerous examples of pronoun reference errors throughout the book.  Of course, this is as much a reflection on the editing as it is on the author, but I mention it because it did detract from the book overall.

The bottom line for my rating this book less than favorably, however, is that I wasn’t convinced a reader would come away grasping that the love of God is completely and fully life-changing; nor would a reader learn how to bring God her brokenness and pain.  I tried to imagine how a young woman caught in a web of her own poor choices and a tragic search for love would truly find hope- let alone redemption- when she reads Sarah Jakes’ conclusion that, “In the end the ministry I tried to outrun most of my life is what saved me.”  (There’s that word again!) Ultimately, Ms. Jakes found a sense of purpose and wholeness when she began working for her (famous and very wealthy) parents’ in their various church-backed enterprises.  The redemption is her own achievement; she redeemed her past when she discovered she was able to offer something to others.  I don’t think she intended this conclusion at all, but its there, and it blurs the true meaning of redemption, making her story sound like a journey of self-actualization rather than a journey of deliverance. To be fair, Ms. Jakes does acknowledge that God’s grace was always available to her, and that accepting her imperfections and God’s love was life-changing- but the message is mixed.  What really comes through most powerfully is that she was saved from a painful life by her parents’ unconditional love, the opportunities they offered her, and her discovery of purpose, rather than a revelation of God’s love, his mercy, and His transforming power. 

I absolutely hate to be critical of what is clearly a courageous and genuine desire to help others by being transparent and honest- but when I think of young women I know who are in destructive relationships or a pit of bad choices they can’t seem to pull out of, I can’t help but think that they would say upon reading this book, “I can really relate to what Sarah went through, how she felt, and why she did what she did.  It’s nice for Sarah Jakes that she has a loving, strong and wealthy family to rescue her…but I don’t.”

I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from Bethany House Publishers.  I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

 

 

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