Life doesn’t always go as we planned. But I’m pretty sure you didn’t need me to tell you that. In fact, I’m writing a book that’s counting on the fact that most of us are searching for help with how to live well when our hopes and dreams crumble away or never materialise in the first place.
I’m confident the market is big enough for (at least) two such books, which is a good thing or I’d be very disheartened by Sheridan Voysey’s new release, The Making of Us.
The first time I met Sheridan, and his wife Merryn, I thought they were perfectly ordinary (lovely, fun, interesting) people. We were at a mutual friend’s house for dinner, and I had no idea of the heartache they had been through just a few years earlier.
They are Australian, and had moved to England for Merryn’s work, but the reason they were free to do so was that they had been unable to have children. I learned more of their story from Sheridan’s book, Resurrection Year.
What I didn’t learn was that Sheridan had remained feeling at something of a loss. Merryn was pursuing another of her dreams, but Sheridan hadn’t yet managed to find his place. So, like many have done before him, he decided to go on a pilgrimage.
The Making of Us is the story of that pilgrimage – a walk from Lindisfarne to Durham, with his friend DJ, in the footsteps (and coffin-steps!) of St Cuthbert – in order to see the Lindisfarne Gospels, illuminated in the saint’s memory in the 8th century.
Sheridan’s writing is lyrical and poetic. He describes the beautiful, wild landscape so vividly that it almost made me want to turn my collar up, imagining the wind whipping across the fields and along the beaches. At times the friends’ walk had something of the air of Bill Bryson’s Notes from a Small Island, when they found themselves clambering through hedges to escape a hazardous road, or wading across a wide river mouth that had appeared only to be a small stream on the map. Beautiful though it sounded, it certainly did nothing to convince me that walking 115 miles was a sensible way to spend a week (especially when it came to the descriptions of DJ’s blisters…)!
Yet as they walked and talked and thought and worshipped together, Sheridan did find he had the time and space to process many of the questions that had been bothering him – who am I? What is my purpose, my calling? What is my identity in this new phase of life?
Although he did hear God answering him and feel him beginning to work on healing Sheridan’s heart and lead him towards some resolution of his questions, it is interesting that it took Sheridan four years to write the book. That’s not because he’s a slow writer, but because as he wrote he found that he kept having to dig deeper, to really deal with the answers he had begun to receive.
You can’t write honestly about making peace with the idea that being a child of God is the only identity that matters, if you’re still not 100% at peace with it. You can’t tell others that what they achieve is not as important as who they become if you’re still striving to find significance through achievement. But now he has got there – or at least close enough to be able to write honestly about the successes and the struggles.
The result is a beautiful, helpful, hopeful book for anyone who is wrestling with knowing how to keep walking forwards when the road ahead is unclear and its destination uncertain.
There is a ‘reflection guide’ at the end with questions to help you think more deeply about the themes and lessons of each chapter, which are really helpful. I think I found them more thought-provoking than the actual chapters, somehow, and would have liked them to have been interspersed through the book, to force me to pause and reflect.
I think I’ve been through my cycle of wrestling with these big life questions already, though, so although I found the book very beautiful and readable, and agreed entirely with Sheridan’s conclusions, it wasn’t really scratching a current itch for me. So I can’t honestly tell you that it was a powerful or life-changing book for me, and hence can’t guarantee that it will be for you. However, I was privileged to be part of a group of ‘early readers’ of the book, and I’ve seen several of the other readers say that it has had them in tears and been really helpful as they have wrestled with similar issues, so if you’re facing those kinds of questions, I am confident that The Making of Us will be a worthwhile investment. All the benefits without the blisters!
My rating: 4/5 (only because it didn’t scratch where I’m itching)
I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.