Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Book Review: The Gift

In The Gift, Jeffery Mitchell (a Covenant Pastor and colleague) has penned a fable bringing ancient wisdom into present-day life. The larger narrative is a fictionalized tale of Mitchell's visit to a fabled Ethiopian monastery, and his encounter with a fascinating document there. The heart of the story is that document itself - "The Book of Zadok" - which tells of a priest and his work with King Solomon.

While the story is fiction, Mitchell uses the biblical account of Solomon as his framework. We find Solomon lost and confused, seeking clarity from Zadok, Israel's priest. As the story progresses, Mitchell shows a deep insight into the human heart with all its questions, doubts, temptations and hopes. All too often I discovered Solomon's words describing my own inner discussions; Zadok's probing questions forced me to consider the masks behind which I often hide. Mitchell's work as a spiritual director shines through in the way he senses the work of the Spirit in the human heart.

Most helpful, rather than come from a position of already knowing it all, Mitchell shares his own struggles to understand and implement Solomon's "Seven Pillars of Wisdom." Thus the book comes across as the gentle encouragement of a friend, rather than a lecture of a superior guru.

The Gift is a small book and an easy read, with enough of a plot to keep the reader interested, but its depth is surprising. This is a book that could be read multiple times, with new insights gleaned at each passing. One could make comparisons to other, more famous 'fictional allegories' in the Christian book market (I won't name names), and the truth is, The Gift is among the best I've read in recent years. As a bonus, a small study guide is available on Jeff's website.

Thanks to Evergreen Press for gifting all ECC pastors with The Gift at this year's Midwinter Conference, and to Jeff for sharing his gift with the world.

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