Chrysalis (Faith in an Emerging Culture), by Alan Jamieson, is a book that’s hard to fit into an exact category. The back of the book proclaims:
Have you ever felt that the very things that once inspired and nurtured your faith now seem lifeless and perhaps even frustrating?
I guess it says something about my journey over the last few years that such a book appealed. 🙂
Anyway, it’s essentially a book about change. About drastic, radical, all consuming change that leaves some without any faith, and some with a far deeper, more complex, and real faith. Other authors refer to this passage as the long dark night of the soul, but Jamieson uses the metaphor of a caterpillar metamorphosing into a butterfly (hence the title). It’s a metaphor that fits extremely well, I think, into what can happen to Christians who undergo a critical period of transformation. He would have it as the journey
from black and white, to greys, to an equal respect of black and whites and greys. Or a journey
from uncritical acceptance, to doubts, questions, and critiques, through to embracing mystery and paradox.
The book has a very help structure – after an introduction and overview, Jamieson spends on chapter on “pre-critical” Christian life, as a caterpillar. The next 5 or 6 chapters about the time in the cocoon – the transformation. The book finishes off with a couple of chapters on butterflies, then rounds off with the big picture stuff of what this process means and how it fits in.
The book personally helped me to start to get a handle on a fair confusing time in my life. Probably the first time I’ve seriously began to question what I believed for my whole life. I’m not saying I never had doubts before, but this was different. This book doesn’t offer answers in the traditional sense, but it helped me understand how there are phases and cycles of the walk of faith – and to assume that one will remain a caterpillar forever is kind of limiting.
But, like Rob Bell, what Jamieson has to say just rings true, and feels right. I’m actually quite inspired by the vision of monarch waystations and butterfly houses.
This is not a book for everyone. A decade ago I probably would have thrown it out after the first chapter. I guess the analogy is that people who aren’t drowning have no need of one of those floaty ring things – and probably don’t really see the point. But if you’ve ever fundamentally had to rethink who God is (indeed whether He is!), and what your relationship is with Him and the church, I unreservedly recommend this book as a way to at least structure your thinking about what might be going on.
Jamieson somehow leaves a pleasant (or at least hopeful) taste in your mouth after you’ve had to eat something rather unpleasant in life.