A flash-back review from the early days of the Woman Alive book club. I love Adrian Plass’s writings; they don’t lose their humor or punch.
Adrian Plass is a Christian speaker and writer who has been loved over the years for his humor and honesty. Telling stories of personal vulnerability seems to be his job. As he says in the introduction to Jesus – Safe, Tender, Extreme, “I am not a teacher in any orthodox sense. I am not a theologian. I am not a preacher; I cannot preach to save my life. I am simply allowed to be a man with a broom, sweeping away the rubbish that prevents others from passing further in and further up, and I tend to do this by talking about what Jesus does and doesn’t do in my life. He is safe, he is tender and he is extreme. This book is soaked with those things.”
Some who have read this book have commented that it reveals a more mature and wise writer. In it he is profound and deep, but also laugh-out-loud funny. You may not agree with him about everything – like his views on healing or the Bible – but you won’t lack things to consider and discuss if you read it.
- Adrian wrote this book in the light of eternity, as his mother-in-law lay dying in the next room. How did this affect you? And how did you react to his description of cancer as a ‘ravening fungoid monster’ (p. 21)?
- Do you feel so safe in the love of Jesus that you are free from any of the agoraphobia that Adrian speaks of on page 28? Are you able to pop out “to explore what’s going on down the road”? How does Adrian and Bridget’s encounter with the couple at the coffee shop illustrate this concept (pp. 93ff)? And how does this safety allow and even compel us to embrace truth?
- Adrian says on page 69 that “there is not a single incident in the lives of his followers that [Jesus] does not inhabit and monitor and have ultimate control over, even at those times when darkness and distress are all that we are able to see and feel.” Do you believe this? In your times of darkness, have you found this to be true?
- In several places in the book, and especially throughout chapter 5, Adrian speaks of God “defaulting to compassion” and us “defaulting to praise” (also p. 44 and 73). Do you really believe that at the heart of God lies compassion and tenderness? If not, why? Could you move in that direction? How would your life be different if you did?
- In the story “Closed Wounds,” Adrian in his dialogue with God hears that “the scar is a sign of health” (p. 178). Do you agree with what seems to be a contradiction in terms? Why or why not?
- On page 194 Adrian says that “safety and extreme obedience overlap, and the place where they come together is in the concept of ultimate trust in Jesus, even in the midst of apparent failure.” He goes on to talk about how Western Christians fall apart when “God lets them down.” What did you think of the questions Adrian wanted to ask Janet on pp. 197-98? Do you agree or disagree with his conclusions? How have you reacted to God in the tough times of your life?
- Some of the extreme encounters Adrian recounts are filled with the everyday stuff of life, like waiting at the supermarket queue (pp. 239ff). Did this surprise you? When have you experienced the thrill of extreme obedience amid your daily life?
Okay, I have a confession to make. I was Adrian’s editor for many years, and indeed was his editor for this book. So I can’t confess to any objectivity. Quite simply, I think the book is wonderful and profound and funny and moving.
When the manuscript first crossed my desk I wasn’t sure about the inclusion of the stories. They weren’t what we were expecting, and I didn’t know how they would fit with the prose. But as I reread the book for this column, I was most profoundly touched by the stories. I hooted at the thought of Adrian collapsing the piece of non-furniture at Blands Warehouse, and was so glad that he stayed and confessed. When he told of his train ride with the tipsy blokes who wanted to talk about Jesus, I wondered what I would have done. And I felt sad about him not telling Dorothy about Jesus, but could relate to that strange part of ourselves that makes such a rash decision and later regrets it. And so on.
One of Adrian’s points that has stuck with me is that God defaults to compassion; this is God’s nature and there is no other. Do we – do I – really live like I believe this? Or do I put a false veneer over God? And in my life, can I follow Jesus and too default to compassion – instead of pride, irritation or selfishness? Ask my husband. Some days yes, some days no!
Views of Woman Alive Book Club readers
I decided to read Jesus – Safe, Tender, Extreme by Adrian Plass as I had read short articles by him but had never read any of his books. The experience for me has been very profound. I felt from the moment that I bought the book that I should start reading it straight away. I had been going through a low time in my spiritual life to the point that I was questioning whether I actually had any real faith. I believe God has used this book to bring me back to Him and to confront me with His deep and enduring love as shown in His son Jesus. I found it difficult to put the book down and felt it was being used to bring me back to the assurance that Jesus truly cares about each one of us and loves us, warts and all. Sometimes I had tears of laughter rolling down my face and sometimes I had tears of joy and relief as the reality of Jesus’ love overwhelmed me. I felt I must write to say thank you for recommending this book as it has definitely been used by God to inspire me and give me confidence that Jesus will always be with me no matter what the situation may be. -Jo Richards, Enfield, Middlesex
I found the book very interesting. One can agree with cancer as a ravenous fungoid monster, but cures are being found and lives extended. I think I feel safe in the love of Jesus, most of the time. Problems do test it. That’s what it’s all about. God’s word sets us free from sin and worry. The author deals with doubt and abandonment, something everyone feels at some time. -Muriel Moore, Turnditch, Derbyshire
Jesus – Safe, Tender, Extreme by Adrian Plass (Zondervan, ISBN 0310268990)