Book Review: Mercy Like Sunlight by Liz Curtis Higgs
No one does modern retellings of Bible stories like Liz Curtis Higgs. No one. Mercy Like Sunlight is such a beautiful example of her storytelling ability. Based on the story of Mary Magdalene, it is the story of Mary Margaret Delaney--or Mad Mary, as she is known in Chicago--and Pastor Jake Stauros. Jake is the founder and pastor of a small church of ragtag members who probably wouldn't be welcome at most churches. Jake goes out and finds them in the worst places and leads them to the Lord. His members include Little John, Pete, Joe, Nick, his mother Mary, and Marijane. Any of those sound familiar? Jake finds Mary Margaret on the streets in the dead of winter, and something calls him to help her. Mary Margaret is tormented by voices in her head that call her to hurt herself, and even try to commit suicide. Jake saves her life and then must find a way to show her the love of God and bring her to Jesus. Mary Margaret does find Jesus, and peace from her demons. When tragedy happens to Jake, Mary Margaret and the other members of the congregation must find grace and strength from an unlikely source.
Sometimes authors try too hard to make a classic Bible story fit into a modern mold, but from Liz Curtis Higgs it just seems to flow naturally. I read probably half of the book before I even realized the parallels between the three Mary's who followed Jesus and the three Mary's in Jake's church. It took me longer to realize he had members named Pete and John. So many little things in this book added up to one incredible story. When Jake prepared to move to another area of town to start a new church, he left Pete in charge of the church, just like Jesus told Peter to take care of His church. The members all shared a last communion together before Jake left for his new mission. I could mention so many other things from the book, but I'd rather not tell it all, because I really, really hope that you'll read this one.
I only had one issue with this book, and it may not be an issue for most people at all. Even though Jake and Mary Margaret prayed together for her to be released from the voices in her head that controlled her, God didn't answer then, but later. This didn't bother me so much as the fact that God came to Mary Margaret during a communion service at a Catholic church. I don't understand why God wouldn't answer her when she prayed, but came to her during a religious ceremony in a church that doesn't even believe in salvation. Obviously, God can speak to a person anywhere and at any time He chooses, but I thought that part was weird.
Overall, though, this was a wonderful book. It is especially good for the Easter season. I only wish I'd had it a week ago! Read this beautiful story about grace, forgiveness and mercy like sunlight.
I was given a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for my review. All opinions are my own.