I first heard rumblings about Kristy’s book long ago. We have been online friends for quite some time and I knew she had started a blog, which I read on occasion. I had also caught glimpses of her story from things she had posted in our online community, comments she made and her blog. I had been impressed by her writing and wit, but what I think has separated Kristy out (for me) as a writer is her ability to engage the reader in the moment. I’ve even read Facebook posts from her that are nary a paragraph long and yet contain a wealth of information about her children and her life. She just has a fantastic way with words.
Kristy’s book has been in the works for awhile and she had been mentioning it to her friends for quite sometime. So, when she finally announced it was being published, I didn’t hesitate to pre-order the book.
Having now read the book in it’s entirety, I do not hesitate to say this – this is a timely and important memoir. It is one of the most important books I have ever read. Act Normal: Memoir of a Stumbling Block is a biographical account of a woman who had been burdened by the church, terrorized by a fellow parishioner and through years of heartache, regret and fear is able to piece together the fragments of a broken past and find Christ amidst the disappointment and pain the Church had caused her. This is a book for the #metoo and #churchtoo generation. It’s the reality that so many Christians who have grown-up in the Church face, where religion was too often used as a weapon and not enough as a shield.
Kristy also uses the book as an opportunity to present some very real questions about pacifism and what challenges it faces in a world filled with people who would use every opportunity to come into a church and like a ravenous wolf, gobble the pacifist flock at will.
I decided that being a peacemaker was a Christian’s role and recommitted to pacifism. But this was a new kind of pacifism for me. It didn’t mean standing still while someone repeatedly punched me in the face. That wasn’t what Jesus wanted. We shouldn’t fight violence with violence, but that doesn’t let us off the hook when it comes to fighting it. We just fight it in a different way. It’s the trap so many pacifists fall into. We think we can avoid violence by avoiding conflict and not getting involved. We forget that silence can be a violent act.
I once had a flat tire in a dubious neighborhood and a guy insisted he change the tire on my car so I could give him a ride up the road. I felt a bit manipulated because he sort of started without asking and I thought it seemed like the most “Christian” thing to do. I then proceeded to be his chauffeur for about an hour while he asked to “just make one quick stop” about three times. It was a harrowing situation for me, but I didn’t really ever fear for my life. As I was reading Kristy’s account of how she felt in her own home or walking around her college campus, it began to hit me – I have never really had to have the type of alarms around me 24/7 that she had. I live in a fairly rough mid-city neighborhood and I chat up strangers on the sidewalk all the time. My wife barely goes out of the house when I’m not around and often avoids answering the door. You’d think “Well, she’s just being paranoid”, which is what I have often thought, but the more of these personal narratives I read from women, the more I’m convinced there is a deep undercurrent of terror that men may never fully understand.
Kristy has managed to do what I think she set out to do and that’s to shake the reader, not through extraordinary experiences, but through experiences that are so ordinary that they seem extraordinary to someone who has never been through these moments or emotions. She manages to channel personal emotions and make them universal so that even a man who has never experienced a drunken date-rape or the fear of a stalker coming into your room at night can empathize with her. It’s unlike anything I have ever read.
If you don’t have this book yet, please go buy it. I also say this sincerely – if you are a member of the body of Christ, you should definitely read Act Normal. Yes, there is cussing and yes there is “sex-talk“. It’s not a polished book. It’s honest. But I believe God can use this honest book to spur us on towards recognizing the pain of those around us, identifying the image of Christ in that person and improving how women are heard in our churches.