A review of Jake Owensby’s “A Resurrection Shaped Life”

There is a temptation in our instant gratification culture to skip past the difficult stuff.  By way of the well-worn refrain, “its Friday, but Sunday’s coming,” Christians prove ourselves to be complicit in this system of ignoring the pain that life so often brings.  The truth is, however, that we cannot get to Easter Sunday without living into the hard truth and searing pain that is Good Friday.  In A Resurrection Shaped Life, Jake Owensby invites readers to experience the fullness of the life of faith – only getting to resurrection once we’ve admitted that death, pain, and grief are real forces acting on our lives.

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A Resurrection Shaped Life is a relatively short book. Six chapters, each with a set of reflection questions at the end, give the reader the opportunity to mine deeply the truths contained within.  Like a beautiful Burial Office service, Owensby bookends the difficult, but rewarding, work of redeeming grief and shame through the power of the resurrection with a stunningly powerful prelude and postlude.  If you are prone to skipping the prologue and epilogue of a text, take note that these seem to be intentionally named differently in order to invite you in to an experience of the holy.  In that same vein, Owensby does a masterful job of taking commonly used theological words and concepts and turning the crystal on them in unique and solidly orthodox ways.  He has keen ability to make what is old new again.  Just to name a few, he offers crafty redefinitions of compassion, forgiveness, and reconciliation.

My nerdy excitement about theological definitions aside, what really drew me into this book was the way in which the author weaves together his own personal story with God’s story as told through Scripture.  Again and again, Owensby cracks open his own life story, difficult as it is, in order to help the reader see how the story of God through Jesus Christ seeks to redeem hardship, not simply take it away, through resurrection living.  The stories will be hard for some to read.  I’m not one who is prone to the expression of human emotion, but even I found myself caught short in the stories of his abusive father and the death of his young sister.*

To get to resurrection living, Owensby is unafraid of taking us all the way through Holy Week.  Through the careful weaving of story, he takes us deep into angst, fear, sadness, and anger, and brings us back out on the other side with grace, compassion, and justice.  I would heartily recommend this book as a text for Lenten devotion.  An individual, or better yet a group of people committed to meeting weekly – a Sunday school class, contemplative prayer group, or even a church staff, could read one chapter a week for the first five and half weeks of Lent, and then re-read the whole book, a chapter a day, through Holy Week.  No matter how you read it, A Resurrection Shaped Life offers readers the opportunity to find themselves within the stories, to reflect deeply on God’s dream for each of us in creation, and to take seriously the work of redeeming grief, shame, and loss.

Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of Jake Owensby’s A Resurrection Shaped Life and read it prayerfully.  You will not regret it.


* I should note, these two stories are unrelated, as far as I can tell.

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