I don’t know when I have been more impacted by a book than I have been by Jack Deere’s memoir Even in Our Darkness: A Story of Beauty in a Broken Life. After the opening chapters, which are very short, it was difficult to put it down. I know reading his personal story touched me in a variety of ways, but I’m not sure how to describe my feelings. I’m surprised, sad, challenged, affirmed, convicted, and encouraged all at the same time.
I knew of John Deere through news stories and his books (that’s why I bought the book), but I had no idea of the ups and downs he has experienced. He calls this first book of his in almost 20 years “the unsanitized version of me becoming a friend of God.” That description compliments the book’s sub-title “A Story of Beauty in a Broken Life.”
What I have written so far may not sound like it, but I’m not necessarily recommending you read his story. He is a good writer, but Even in Our Darkness is not an easy read. It is real and raw, and as I read I was impressed with his transparency.
The darkness he writes about includes alcoholism, physical abuse, immorality, drug addiction, sexual abuse, attempted suicide, suicide, betrayal, and more. But as the book’s title suggests, this is a story of beauty even in the darkness of a broken life.
Let me share a few selected quotes that stimulated my thinking and will give you a taste of Deere’s account.
Following his dad’s funeral after he committed suicide: “We had neither church nor church friends to comfort us” (p. 34).
Commenting on some seminary faculty: “They traded blessed are the meek for blessed are the learned, and blessed are the poor in spirit for blessed are the pure in doctrine” (p. 120).
Speaking about his wife: “She tried to tell me how unhappy she was, I couldn’t hear her” (p. 136).
Assessing his spiritual state at one point: “The pursuit of knowledge had supplanted the pursuit of love, and a love of pleasure had replaced my hunger for the eternal things that can’t be seen” (p. 156).
His take on a congregation he served, “I tried to sympathize with their tiny frozen hearts” (p. 195).
This got my attention: “When the devil wants to send a message, he can always find a religious person to deliver it with perfect timing” (p228).
This is worth considering: “Anger circulates in our bodies as negative energy until we discharge it. We can carry it for years, punishing people we love, never understanding why” (p. 257).
His reflection on his life: “Almost nothing in my life has worked out like I thought it should. I thought as I grew older, I would grow more deserving of God’s love, not less” (pp. 269-70).
Thinking about his three children: “I had them too soon. I was too preoccupied with building my kingdom. I didn’t enjoy them as much as I could have” (p. 274).
Another reflection on his life: “When I lusted after material wealth, he turned my gaze toward eternity. When I sought large crowds, he brought me humility. When I tried to change my wife, he taught me how to love and understand her” (p. 278)
I read in order to learn, to be challenged, and to be encouraged as well as for other reasons. I won’t be ready for another book along the lines of this one for a while, but I am glad I read Deere’s gripping story of his life so far.
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