“What is one thing you feel you can’t say in the church?” author Anne Jackson asked on her blog. Hundreds of people had something to say.
That simple question became the foundation for the book Permission to Speak Freely: Essays and Art on Fear, Confession, and Grace.
Subtitled Essays and Art On Fear, Confession, and Grace, Permission is based on Ms. Jackson’s life and struggles with the church. Although I can’t relate to what she has overcome, I’ve not been there, I do relate to with struggles that are caused by the attitudes of some in the church.
This book is less about what was posted on her blog, and more about honesty. Not just honesty within the organization of the church, but honesty with ourselves. I came away feeling that much of the reason there are things I can’t say in church is that I have a hard time being honest about myself and with myself.
Ms. Jackson describes her childhood as a PK (preacher’s kid) and how it led her away from Christ rather than toward it. Her story is also the story of God never letting go of his children. While not the thesis, Ms. Jackson’s story is about how God does seek the one who is lost. No matter how far afield we may go, he will find us.
While not a mystery, Permission can be described as a page turner. It was one of those books that I had to limit my reading time or I would get nothing done until it was finished. Ms. Jackson’s writing is clear, powerful, and inviting. The story is so well-written that I nearly forgot that there is also emotion-invoking poetry sprinkled throughout also.
I was expecting to find more from FlowerDust readers. But the memoir that Ms. Jackson’s question invoked is compelling and reveals fears that I think most of us have but are so fearful we can’t express. I didn’t just want to shout “Amen,” but also “Me too, Sister.”
As she has done on her blog, Ms. Jackson tells of her diagnosis with bi-polar disorder. (FlowerDust.net) Mental illness is one of those taboo topics in many churches and with many Christians. Her candor about the diagnosis of a serious mental illness will help not just sufferers, but those who love them as well.
In publisher Thomas Nelson’s fashion, the book is printed on quality paper with appropriate graphic design. It invites you hold it, linger through the pages. It is not described as a gift book, and not packaged as such. But the gift-book quality should encourage people to buy it for loved ones. But don’t just buy it for someone else. Get and read Permission to Speak Freely, then share it with others.
Permission to Speak Freely isn’t just a memoir or a critique of the modern church, as has become popular today. It is an invitation to take stock of what it is we fear and the sometimes long road to discovering and overcome those fears. Don’t be afraid to find out what other people are saying; you might be thinking it as well.
To read some excerpts and confessions, go to www.premissiontospeakfreely.com
Permission to Speak Freely: Essays and Art on Fear, Confession, and Grace
Kindle Edition Available
Audio CD Available