Sunday, April 6

When We Were on Fire by Addie Zierman

The swell of Evangelicalism swept through the United States in the 80’s and 90’s. Christianity became ‘marketable’ as it gained its own music, its own bookstores, and even its own clothing and jewelry.  WWJD bracelets seemed to spread like wildfire. Cubbies and Awana taught the importance of memorizing Bible verses and introduced children to the core of the faith. Teenagers flock to their school’s flag pole to pray. Phrases that have now become cliché became common place such as “Let go and let God” and “Hate the sin, love the sinner.”

It is in this world that Addie’s story takes place. As all of these cultural influences are at their peak, and Amy Grant and DC Talk take hold in young hearts, she too is swept up in it all. She is on FIRE for the Lord. Her youth group attendance is impeccable, her Bible at her side at all times, and most importantly she will not missionary date (though she does feel called to date a missionary).

From the first word, I am yanked into the story. Having been born at the start of the 90’s, many of Addie’s experiences are at the least recognizable, if not somewhat similar to my own. Her writing is poetic, and I could not tear myself away from the pages. I felt as if I knew Addie. As if I sat next to her in school, ate lunch with her, attended the same youth group.

When she experienced pain resulting from the evangelical movement, I felt as if I was there to console her. Though I have not experienced everything she has, I know those who have. When she is told that she is a stumbling block by her boyfriend, I can feel her pain and confusion. When she attends Christian rallies I feel her enthusiasm. When she is confronted with the reaction against Amy Grant turning ‘main stream’ I can feel her confusion.  When I finished the first part and closed the book for dinner it felt like only five minutes had passed, when in reality it had been much longer.

This first part is labeled Obsession.

She then moves to Disillusion, as she enters College and is presented with different aspects of faith. She begins to realize that following Jesus is not everything she thought as a child. Things that once seemed clear now seemed murky. She begins to see cracks in the image of evangelicalism. These cracks grow wider after getting married and searching for a church.

Disillusionment leads to Rebellion. Addie describes this part of her life with heart breaking honesty. She is failing to connect with any of the churches she and her husband have attended. They all are too ‘safe,’ teaching platitudes rather than engaging with the people who make up the congregation. But this sections leads to Redemption, where Addie returns to Jesus. Her cynicism with the church begins to lessen and begins to understand even the most imperfect of Jesus’ followers.

As I closed the final page on this book, I wanted to start over again. Addie’s story is one of hope, love, hurt, pain, confusion, and reconciliation. It is a refreshingly honesty story in a culture that sometimes seems to have a problem with honesty. At times her memories of the church made me laugh, at other times they filled me with sorrow. Her words are mesmerizing and I didn’t want to put this book down I feel now as if I know Addie, that I walk up to her and talk as if we were old friends. It’s a rare writer indeed who can do that.

5/5 Stars

I received this book free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group as part of their Blogging for Books 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 Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255

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