Today, this book, from someone I have been incredibly privileged to come to know over the past couple of years, is available for sale:
Having received this book, I settled down to read a chapter before bedtime. A couple of hours later I turned the final page of this beautifully written story that had truly drawn me in with it’s honest insight into a agonizingly difficult journey. The depth of emotion is deeply felt – we share times of both joy and bleakness, with particular authenticity given through original diary extracts which have that unfinished rawness my favourite blogs do. Several sections of the book are eminently tweetable, but this is not a story of simple soundbites: choices are stark and unpleasant, the doubts are heavy, and the questions about suffering and why prayers had gone unanswered are deeply painful.
Christians sometimes want to erase suffering out of the dictionary. If you read the Bible you will see that it is often God’s best tool to make us more like Jesus. The choice is simply ours to yield to it and to allow him to use that suffering rather than complaining, avoiding it, escaping it, divorcing it – we’ve got all kinds of solutions for suffering except to embrace it as God’s will for our life. But when we fo, what a difference his grace makes.
The story deals with Sheridan and Merryn Voysey’s journey through anticipated pregnancy, IVF, accepting infertility, and through to finding recovery in new adventures. We see that IVF involved tough decisions, with physical, ethical and spiritual consequences, and the stresses and strains that IVF can put on a marriage. Sheridan had spent years working towards his dream of being a radio presenter, and had a top-rated show, with opportunities to interview some of the biggest names in the Christian world, and gave it up to start again in the UK. I can’t wait to see if – or should I say when – he manages to create similar in the UK!
It’s a simple story in many ways, cleverly constructed – and the silences say as much as the text. We get a sense of the power of conversation, and the need to just listen and care, without having to ‘know it all’, and avoiding well-meaning platitudes, is powerfully conveyed. There are also nuggets of humour, especially in the descriptions of the first radio show (expecting never to be asked back), decluttering (the memories we have tied up in things), and in getting on the wrong boat in Venice (which I found particularly funny, having done exactly the same thing – but with about 20 other people trailing behind me).
Having made the decision to leave Australia, the couple took time to travel, breathe and question, including visits to L’Abri and Scargill House , rather than jumping straight into Merryn’s new job. We rarely allow ourselves time for this and are clearly much poorer for it. This allowed the space to start to see the positives that could come out of their situation – including more energy for other things… as Sheridan points out on p84:
Our world gets tiny. Our vision gets small. Everyday blessings are missed. We see the pixel and not the picture, the thorn and not the flower, the pebble and not the vista. But life is much bigger.
I don’t find a lot of help in dwelling on things that can’t change. We seem fascinated by cause – why did this happen? The Bible doesn’t really give us a lot of help on the issue of cause. In fact, it tends to switch the focus to our respond: Now that it has happened, what are you going to do about it?
In the best tradition of storytelling the book started at a pivotal moment, and then drops backwards to bring us back to that moment. The book finishes with a sense that the journey is not yet finished, but that life has settled into a new pattern. The book is particularly suitable for those who have faced deep disappointment (especially those seeking to understand childlessness), have raged against God, and want to be left with a sense of hope. In the style of Sheridan’s radio show, however, there’s no need to be a Christian to read this book, and there’s a real opportunity to learn how to acknowledge pain without trying to fix it.
I’ve read it three times already, and it’s just as strong on subsequent readings!
Dr Bex Lewis is passionate about helping people engage with the digital world in a positive way, where she has more than 20 years’ experience. She is Senior Lecturer in Digital Marketing at Manchester Metropolitan University and Visiting Research Fellow at St John’s College, Durham University, with a particular interest in digital culture, persuasion and attitudinal change, especially how this affects the third sector, including faith organisations, and, after her breast cancer diagnosis in 2017, has started to research social media and cancer. Trained as a mass communications historian, she has written the original history of the poster Keep Calm and Carry On: The Truth Behind the Poster (Imperial War Museum, 2017), drawing upon her PhD research. She is Director of social media consultancy Digital Fingerprint, and author of Raising Children in a Digital Age: Enjoying the Best, Avoiding the Worst (Lion Hudson, 2014; second edition in process) as well as a number of book chapters, and regularly judges digital awards. She has a strong media presence, with her expertise featured in a wide range of publications and programmes, including national, international and specialist TV, radio and press, and can be found all over social media, typically as @drbexl.