Ragged: Spiritual Disciplines for the Spiritually Exhausted by Gretchen Ronnevik

Ragged cover imageSummary: A very Lutheran perspective on spiritual disciplines, which is helpful for non-Lutherans to read as a different perspective.

When I picked up Ragged, I knew nothing about the book or author other than several people I know recommended it.  I have been trying to prioritize reading women authors this year. And I have been trying to work through different language around spiritual disciplines because so much of the Evangelical orientation toward spiritual disciplines uses pragmatic self-improvement as a motivation.

The introduction was my favorite part of the book, not that I didn’t like the rest of the book, just that her framing of spiritual disciplines was precisely what I was looking for. Ronnevik is a homeschooling mother of six, wife of a farmer, and survivor of a severe car crash that has left her with chronic pain. She directly takes on the type of perfectionistic, strongly ordered approach to spiritual disciplines that deters too many from even attempting regular disciplines. Disciplines are to draw us toward God, not to prove ourselves worthy of God.

After the helpful introduction, each chapter is a different discipline. I understand that approach, but it was not the best move. The positive of that approach is that you can go to disciplines that you are more interested in. The negative of that approach is that it is a type of list of disciplines that we are all familiar with. In many cases, Ronnevik reframes the discipline to make them more approachable, but I still feel like a knowledge presentation of disciplines. Each of those chapters are filled with stories to draw the reader in and be relatable. And I think this is a book that will be particularly helpful for people that struggle with disciplines as a competition to make themselves better.

One of the people I meet with for spiritual direction is a Lutheran pastor, and I do not know if I would have understood the discussions of Law and Grace as much as I did without some of the discussions I have had. Law and Grace are central to Lutheran theology and spirituality. It has been a few years since I tried to read outside of my theological tradition as a regular discipline, but this book is an excellent example of why that is important. I am not Lutheran, but the different framing helps me to see my tradition through a different theological facet and helps me better understand another Christian tradition.

Part of what I love about this book is that it is a book that imparts hard-won wisdom from an experienced Christian. More important than specific disciplines is the orientation to the Christian life that pays attention to wisdom and experience. I alternated between reading this in print and listening to the audiobook. The narration was fine, and I could always understand what was said. But the choice of narrators was wrong for the book. The narrator was a young woman. Because the book drew so clearly from Ronnevik’s life as a woman and mother, it needed to be a woman, but it would have been better for the voice to have more age to communicate the book’s wisdom.

Ragged: Spiritual Disciplines for the Spiritually Exhausted by Gretchen Ronnevik Purchase Links: Paperback, Kindle Edition, Audible.com Audiobook

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