It took me a long time to get round to reading this book. The trouble was, everyone said it was so good. So I didn’t want to read it in case I was disappointed. Plus, it’s American, Christian, women’s fiction – so how good could it really be?!
Really good, is the answer. Really, really good!
Sensible Shoes is subtitled ‘A Story about the Spiritual Journey’, and it follows four women who meet at a spiritual retreat centre and help and encourage each other as they learn different spiritual practices and draw closer to God. But that doesn’t do it justice – it’s like having a spiritual retreat in the palm of your hands.
The practices the women learn – like ancient prayer models like the Examen, or the Lectio Divina style of Bible reading are explained fully, so you too can practise them. And each of the women has a spiritual mentor she goes to to talk through what she’s learning – the lessons are very painful at times, as they dig into deeply embedded lies they have believed – about themselves, about those they love, and even about God. These conversations allow the author to be a mentor to the reader, too, helping us to unpick the untruths and learn how to trust God and revel in his love for us.
The book was a ‘Secret Santa’ gift last Christmas, which someone ‘stole’ from me (according to the rules of the game we play), and promised to pass it on when she had finished. I am also supposed to pass it on to another player of the game (who I had ‘stolen’ it from), but I wanted to be able to lend it to someone else, so before I’d finished reading, I went online and bought another copy. Then as soon as I finished, bought the rest of the series.
I appreciated the fact that the characters’ lives didn’t immediately get sorted out, which I think is a weakness of many other Christian novels. Broken and difficult relationships stayed broken and difficult. Most took steps towards healing – some bigger than others – but it wasn’t a case of simply praying and then everything was perfect again. I’m looking forward to seeing how the relationships and issues develop and are worked through in the sequels. Watch this space!
Some people have said they found it a bit ‘preachy’, and I suppose if you come to it wanting to be entertained and diverted, and instead find yourself being gently taught, through the lives and experiences of these women, it would be something of a surprise. So do be warned, the author’s heart is clearly to help her readers find the freedom, repentance and joy that her characters discover. If that’s not for you, try something else.
I’m certainly hoping and praying that the person I have lent it to feels God speaking to them and calling them deeper into his love, and that they accept the invitation.
And now I’m just itching for the next one to arrive!
**Update** Some trusted friends contacted me after reading this review and urged me to be cautious about embracing or recommending everything in this book. Some of the tools described can be and have been used in ways that draw the reader away from God and his Word, seeking an experience of God and a fresh revelation from him at the expense of studying what the text actually says. This article explains a little more. So if you do choose to read this book, read it with that caution in mind. I am grateful to these friends for their loving, gentle concern in this.