The city is situated between two juts of rock, helpfully called East Rock and West Rock. On the flat plane beneath these two small hills, the houses and roads span out to the coast, and from the top of either rock you can see the city spread before you, reaching out to the sea. When you’re in the city, you would hardly know it’s on the edge of the coastline, but when you’re up high and look out, you’re reminded that the city is coastal indeed. East Rock is more populated, easier to access, and tends to be filled with crowds of holidaymakers and families having picnics. West Rock is more remote. It is usually quieter. You have to walk.
One day, I hiked to the top of West Rock. My life had been unusually busy for a season, and this in a lifestyle that had made busyness a normal pattern. But not only had I pushed the pedal faster and more aggressively for longer than was probably wise, and hence was tired, but I had also come to a crossroads in my life. Somewhere inside I knew it, though I’m not sure I could have articulated it.
The reasons for this crossroads are boring and personal, and I don’t want to break the rule of Too Much Information as I share, but I do want to set the context for how I came to write 7 Days to Change Your Life. It arises from a long experience of talking with people as their pastor, and finding that the resource or book I wanted to give them didn’t seem to exist. So as I discovered the need for a book like this, I wondered whether I should write it. That was the origin of the book, but it didn’t really get going until it got personal. Like Augustine’s Confessions, there is a need in Christian literature for not only objective reporting of the biblical facts, but also openhearted and fearfully honest engagement with those facts.
I have no desire to be weak; in fact, I think I’m strong by most people’s standards. I am a jock (as Americans call it), a games player (as the English say), and one who always gave himself, at least from his teenage years, to equally strenuous mental pursuits. I think most would look at my life and assume I’ve achieved much—earning a PhD, leading a successful church plant, serving as senior pastor of a large, well-known church—but as I stood atop West Rock that day, I had become more acutely aware of my weakness than at any other time before or since.
I’m encouraged the apostle Paul teaches that when we are weak, we are strong. But that’s probably just my male macho side insisting on being heard: I want to tell you I was weak, but I have to tell you that was really strong! How complex we are.
This crossroads moment involved my son. Given that he may one day read these words, I will say no more than that he was diagnosed with severe medical issues, suffering physically as well as mentally from autism, and is now doing extraordinarily well, will likely outearn us all, and will achieve great things. I trust he knows how much he has been used by God to change this arrogant high achiever into a vessel God might be able to use a little bit. I had nowhere else to go, so (late as ever) I went to God.
As I sat close to the precipice of West Rock, I realized I wasn’t really at a crossroads; instead, I was at a cliff’s edge. Suddenly, I realized afresh that God had given his Son for me. Hardly news, you might say, but it hit me like a rocket-propelled grenade, and it opened the tear ducts like an English public schoolboy is never meant to admit. I wanted my son to be fixed; I couldn’t understand why God wouldn’t; I realized God had intended, deliberately, to have his Son be unfixed—crucified—by fixing him to a cross. Hard as it is to watch your son suffer and not be able to do anything about it, what would it be like to watch your Son suffer, be able to stop it, but refrain for the sake of others for whom he dies?
That thought launched a new search for a resource or book that would help others come to a point of starting again. You don’t have to be in crisis. You just have to want to be revitalized. Who doesn’t? If you don’t, I’m a bit worried for you, to be honest. It’s a bit like humility: If you don’t think you need to work on it, you can be sure you do. If you don’t think you need a new (or renewed) work of God in your life, you likely need it all the more.