Craving Grace chronicles the real-life journey of one woman as she struggles with balancing the scriptural expectations for holy living with the promise of God’s grace and forgiveness. Author Lisa Velthouse composes this memoir to share her story of “faith, failure, and [her] search for sweetness.” While I never even heard of the book, some of you may recognize her name as the author of Saving My First Kiss – a book she wrote vowing that she would never kiss a man until she got engaged. As Velthouse travels through her life she comes to the realization that it is her belief in God and how he loves her (or doesn’t love her) that impacts everything she is and does. Velthouse writes about 1/3 of the way into the book:
“[T]here have been – there are still – times when I don’t feel convinced he can be trusted for another tuft [of grass – referring to the idea that the Lord is our shepherd] or for what seems like the right one….I had all but stopped asking God for things, even small things that had a chance of being important to me. I assumed he would rather teach me another hard lesson than disk me up some asked-for happiness or relief. I had become afraid to pray my most weighty and meaningful requests, out of ear that God might deny them instantly, for sport.
“My only fallback plan was to…keep trying to be extra good. I hoped my obedience and good behavior would compel God to send me some of the favor I had been asking for. The problem with this fallback plan, however, was that it was held together by two assumptions: I’m deserving and God isn’t loving.”
While at times her struggles to me seemed simplistic and her expectations unrealistic, I also recognized myself while reading the book that it was my own sense of self-righteousness that was causing me to judge her attempts at holiness as being that way. In all honesty, reading the book reminded me that holiness is much than what we don’t do but also what we do do. Later in the book Velthouse identifies her own struggles and failures with that of Peter in the Gospels, and this one struck a chord with me:
“Here [is Peter], a man who only days earlier had with confidence and maybe cockiness put stock in his own ability to follow Jesus boldly. “Even if everyone else deserts you, I will never.” There were perhaps, valid reasons for Peter to believe he could pull that off – he had already given up his career and left his family to follow Christ around the countryside for who knows how long – probably years. He had once gone out on a limb and had, in fact of all the other disciples, dared to say that Jesus was the Son of God. On top of that, he had attempted to walk on water and for a short time had even managed it. His discipleship to that point had demonstrated gall and a fierce tenacity, no doubt. Even so, in a few gray moments before dawn, he found he was still fundamentally lacking and wrong…Peter couldn’t keep even one denial down his throat.
“I tend to look at myself and think, Good too. Good at following God more than most other folks. Good at holding my tongue for the most part. Good at being an example, especially when there’s a stage to stand on…Good at not needing forgiveness most days. Good at making up for my flaws and foibles….It is a story cut from the same stone as Peter’s “I will never,” and somewhere there is a rooster about to crow…
“Par of the message of Christ’s death, God’s sacrificing his own Son for humanity, is that even at our best and brightest, at our most spot-on and well-intentioned, we are incapable of being the people we would need to be in order to get to God. So I am more than just a person who sins; I am a sinful person. On my own I am fundamentally, unchangeably full of sin, no matter how good I try to get. My only hope for a future apart fro my sin is to accept the one gift I can never deserve: Christ’s sacrifice.”
As with most people I know (including me) who struggle with this big concept of living by the grace of God, Velthouse found that once she discovered grace she began to abuse it, in a sense. But then she realized, correctly, that our response to God’s grace is not sinning more but trusting more. She writes of her rebellious stage, “The phase didn’t last long…Over time I discovered that reveling in God’s grace didn’t necessarily require emphasizing how crude and irresponsible I could be. When the dust settled, I returned to careful behavior, to pursuing obedience as best as I could.”
Overall this book was a pleasant read, though my over-all disappointment with the book is that it spent more space talking about life before her discovery of living in God’s grace and not much about what that discovery meant as she lived it out day-to-day. If you’re looking to read the journey one of your sisters in Christ makes as she discovers – truly discovers – God’s grace, this book is worth your time. Don’t look to it for any radical insights or revelations – but be careful as you read it, because you may find it is like looking into a mirror and seeing yourself. I’ll give it 3.5 stars.
I received this book free from Tyndale Publishers as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commision’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”