Coming Clean: A Story of Faith
224 pp., $15.99
The power of testimony is that it taps into something we already know. It provides the hearer (or reader) with little aha moments when the convert's story intersects with the hearer's. Evangelical testimonies re-tell the gospel story in events that are particular to each convert and yet universal, too. What is common is a shared heritage of goodness tainted by sin. So when Haines comments that "we're all drunk on something," and that "the addiction is not the thing. The pain is the thing," he widens the story to allow the reader to substitute her own addictions and pain.
At the center of the Christian narrative is the insistence that we need saving from sin—we're powerless to break free on our own. In a recent talk, I heard Catholic philosopher Peter Kreeft make the connection between sin and addiction explicit: "If you take secondary things and make them first things, then you're an addict." Or, as Augustine would put it, sin is when our loves are disordered. Haines is a modern-day storyteller who puts his own addictions on display so that his readers can find healing.
But testimony also moves toward something. Even without the promise of a neat narrative trajectory, Coming Clean moves toward resolution. It is a book that traces Haines' story within a wider narrative of God's faithfulness and provision; it is a return to faith in a present God, whose voice could be heard among the Texan mesquite trees of Haines' childhood and who is beside him on his painful journey toward properly ordered loves. And, like all good testimonies, it's messy. Or, as Haines' writes: "This is not a clean story. This is a story of coming clean."
Ashley Hales holds a PhD in English from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. But she spends most of her time chasing around her four children and helping her husband plant a church. She writes at www.circlingthestory.com and loves to make friends on Twitter.
Copyright © 2015 by the author or Christianity Today/Books & Culture magazine.
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