Published in 2014 this book is already a classic in the field. Mostly because it’s written by Steven Garber who runs The Washington Institute for Faith, Vocation & Culture. The author has been all over the world teaching on vocation and is one of the most influential and most respected voices on this topic.
The main points of the book are the following:
- The world is a difficult place to live in.
- We have to choose what we will do with the difficulty of our lives.
- If we follow culture, we’ll turn numb and disengaged to the difficulty around us.
- Christians are obligated to care for the world as God has cared for us through God’s covenant relationship.
- We can’t just know or decide what needs to get done, we need to act according to the Gospel.
- We need to avoid the two great alternatives to the Gospel: stoicism and cynicism.
While that’s a spoiler-alert, it’s not really a spoiler alert because while this book makes “points” its about much more than the points. The book is mostly meant to be a journey of walking through people’s stories to understand what these truths look like in real life.
This book is meant to evoke curiosity, grief, compassion, inspiration, surprise, perseverance, and encouragement. Only Steven Garber could write a book like this. It felt more like a memoir than anything else. Reading this book is like walking with Garber through life listening to him reflect on his most important relationships and the most meaningful books in his library.
The referenced literature within the book is vast and represents many different genres. The real-life stories are from all over the globe. The stories are great and many of them are dramatic. But I wish there were a few more normal, ordinary people highlighted within the pages.
Garber talks a lot about the difficulty of living an ordinary life and of persevering through suffering but his stories are typically un-typical. Kinda felt like I was watching a TV drama which is more like watching life-on-stereoids than ordinary life. This isn’t bad I suppose, but I got a bit weary of the hype by the end of the book. I don’t mean that every story is disney-esque, just that the majority of the stories involve very bright people, very traveled people, very unique people. I wish there were more ordinary people highlighted, because then I think this book would speak more to ordinary people. As it is, it seems geared more for influencers in society rather than the normal every-day folk.
Regardless, this book is really valuable and should be read by leaders, managers, CEOs, pastors, artists, and other cultural influencers. Garber is extremely articulate and culturally-savvy, able to weave Gospel truths into life in a special way. I didn’t feel like I learned a lot, but I felt a lot. And in feeling, I was drawn closer to the reality of how difficult the world is, and how good the Gospel can be as we seek to draw closer to God in our work.