Revealing our wounds and our brokenness to another human being can be uncomfortable. It is always vulnerable, but worse, sometimes it feels forbidden. In her introduction to Soul Bare: Stories of Redemption , Cara Sexton writes that in community, especially church community, people can believe the lie that “Your wounds have no place here.”
In Soul Bare, thirty-one writers of faith, including Sarah Bessey, Angie Hong, and Seth Haines, share their stories of brokenness. But more than being a series of windows that allow us to witness other people’s pain, Soul Bare invites readers to examine and tell their own stories of brokenness. Sexton’s hope is that when you finish Soul Bare you will feel a little less alone in your pain and a little more encouraged. She hopes that the book won’t stop there in your head and heart, but instead move into your life.
As you read accounts of abuse, loss, and doubt, you will find stories that echo your own—even if at first glance, your story seems nothing like the one on the page. Or maybe it will be exactly like the one on the page. Either way, every person who picks up Soul Bare can find in its pages something that feels familiar, and in that shared pain, hopefully they can find shared hope.
If you read this book and become inspired to tell your own story of brokenness, Sexton has done her job well. Soul Bare invites readers to listen to stories of raw authenticity, to let the pain of their own lives in, and then to start look around for some peace. Or maybe even joy.
As Sexton reminds readers at the beginning of her collection, “The very Word of God is, after all, a collection of broken stories about broken people just like us.” God will not be shocked by your failure, fear, or anger. Your wounds are welcome before God and God’s people.
Soul Bare is not a celebration. In fact, it might best be labeled as a lament, but it is a lament that leans toward the light. Some of the authors’ stories end in bursts of hope and joy. Others end in gloom but with a faint light shimmering in the distance. And others end in the dark with more questions and hurt than answers and relief. In the hearts of believers, hope is a thing that’s hard to kill, and even in the most desperate chapters, Soul Bare is never utterly devoid of it.
You may not personally connect with every story in Soul Bare, but then again, maybe you will. I was surprised by how quickly I recognized myself in nearly every story. I don’t have a debilitating illness that keeps me in bed for weeks on end; but I know what it’s like to feel trapped and helpless. I don’t know what it is like to lose a child; but I lost my sister when I was two, and I grew up watching my parents wrestle with that loss. I don’t know what it’s like to show up at your dream school, the school you felt God pointed you to, and discover it is a place that will come close to robbing you of your faith; but I know how it feels when your expectations are shattered and you question why God sent you here at all. If you read this book with an open heart, you will find yourself in its pages too.
As you read, reflect, and then find the courage to share your own soul bare story, may you remember that authenticity is about more than spilling your secrets or wounds on the ground for people to gawk at. Sexton reminds us that the best authenticity is “about the raw and real baring of our souls for a holy, redemptive purpose.” May you read and share stories of brokenness in the pursuit of redemption.
Mackenzie Jager is an editor at Recorded Books. Her writing has been published in Chicago Style Weddings, Art House America, Cargo Literary Magazine, and more. When she’s not reading or writing, Mackenzie enjoys exploring new places, baking, and spending time with her friends and family.
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