I generally don’t like fiction books that are trying to make a point. You know the book: a struggling person meets a wise guide who imparts wisdom so that the struggler becomes a success. I’ve read too many of these, and frankly, most of them aren’t that good.
So I felt a little wary when I began Bo’s Café. It’s one of those books. Steven Kerner, a high-powered executive, can’t seem to pull his marriage together. He meets Andy Monroe, a strange man who chews on ice and seems to know more than he should. Andy begins to lead Steven through a series of encounters in which Steven slowly unravels. Steven keeps trying to bail, and he still doesn’t get it right, but he begins to find health as he admits truth and discovers grace.
The story actually works. I knew how it would unfold from the earliest pages of the book, but that didn’t seem to matter. Steven is so like most of us that I couldn’t wait to see what Andy was going to teach him. It’s like the movie that follows the formula you already know, but that you still enjoy. I enjoyed reading the book, mainly because it did such a good job of exposing our hearts.
I could quibble with the content of the book. If you’re looking for a theological explanation of the gospel, this book will disappoint. It’s not that it says anything wrong. It just could go farther in unpacking how the gospel accomplishes what it does.
And, yes, I was nervous to see that it’s published by the people that put out The Shack, and endorsed by William Paul Young, its author. My guard was up.
Despite this, the book delivers a punch. Bo’s Café might have changed my life if I’d read it twenty years ago. It diagnoses the human heart with accuracy. It reveals the coping mechanisms we try that never seem to work. And then it leads us to grace — not grace for good people, but grace for those who’ve discovered that they can’t fix themselves and are tired of trying. It calls us to drop the mask, to tell the truth about ourselves to God and others, and to meet Jesus in our need. It’s a book that helps us imagine grace for people like us.
The book also gives us a picture of the safety that churches can provide:
Safe is a place where you can get out the worst about you and they don’t run you off, talk you down, or head for the hills. It’s having someone to stand with when you start to face the shameful stuff, man. It’s where you can be a jerk and still have a place at the table the next day… where you don’t have to hide or fake or pretend or bluff. Safe is being loved more for revealing revealing your crap, not less. Safe is not having to ‘man up’ or be coerced to ‘get real’ or none of that nonsense … Safe is where I can tell you my garbage so you can enter in and stand with me in the solution of it. That’s safe, man.
I’ve read books that teach what it looks like to be gospel-centered. This book teaches through story. Somehow that worked.
“I’ve come to believe there are no together people,” Andy says. “Only those who dress better than others … Each of us, Steven, walks with a profound limp. Some have just learned to hide their limps better.” If you can relate to this, and you would like to reacquaint yourself with God’s grace, this book may help you. We could all use a greater knowledge of God’s grace in our lives.