Jonathan Merritt is a journalist and writer. His two previous books, A Faith of Our Own (politics and culture) and Green Like God (Environmentalism) are more issue books. But Jesus is Better Than You Imagined is a memoir.
Jesus is Better Than You Imagined is mostly a book about Merritt’s life and what he has learned through his experiences. A few years ago I read a number of memoirs in a short period of time and I got a bit burned out by them.
The problem with memoirs is that they are so personal and because of the personal nature it can be hard to interact with them. And the very nature of memoirs (especially Christian ones) is that the author often seems to be so wise because they are processing what they have learned as part of the book, even though it is often long after the events recounted that the author was really able to fully process the events as they are being presented.
On the other hand, this type of spiritual memoir can really be edifying to read because we can see how God is working through circumstances for their good. Memoir and spiritual biography I think should be a regular part of any Christian’s spiritual reading. But there is a problem with too much of a good thing.
Merritt particularly is writing about how God has taken him through difficult issues. Merritt was molested by another older boy that was a friend of the family. He never revealed that except to a friend. That friend, to whom Merritt also revealed his confusion about his sexuality that Merritt at least somewhat attributes to the molestation, outed Merritt on his blog about 2 years ago.
It is not hard to see how this could affect Merritt’s life, family and career.
Jesus is Better Than You Imagined is the result of the two years of growth and healing (it is actually probably closer to a year because of the lead time required to write the book.) One of the problems with memoir writing is that they have to be written at some point. And two years is probably too close to the event, but I can understand why Merritt wants to write this book now.
Many young writers starts with memoir because ‘writing what you know’ is one of the tried and true pieces of writing advice. I am glad this is not Merritt’s first book. If it were, I think he could fall into the trap of becoming only a memoir writer. But Merritt has written other books and he will write other non-memoir books in the future. Merritt really is a good writer. He is still young. He still will have lots to learn. But Jesus is Better than You Imagined is worth a read. Nothing magical, no silver bullet of spiritual writing, just solid writing trying to properly recount how God works. (By the way, magic or spiritual bullet writing is almost always something that we should run far, far away from. Real spiritual growth takes time, effort and grace. There is no such thing as a silver bullet for spiritual growth.)
Jesus is better than we imagined. And it is good to get other’s perspectives on why.
- Jonathan Merritt – A Faith of Our Own [Review] (Englewood Review of Books)
- Green Like God (Books and Culture Magazine)