During a recent season of transition and grief, a mentor shared with me that at one time, her husband refused to go to psychotherapy for his childhood trauma. He claimed that if he unlocked the box that was buried deep down in the basement of his soul, he would unleash an unbearable sadness and likely never be able to stop the tears.
The characters of These Nameless Things have finally managed to climb their way out of that basement, and what does Dan do? He returns. He joins his brother, and they suffer alongside one another in the depths of their despair.
Even though I believe his actions were driven out of guilt for feeling responsible for the plane crash, he ends up empathizing with his brother in the pit.
As a person who likes resolution and clarity, I was not sold on These Nameless Things in the first few chapters. While there is so much to unpack, I would like to focus on the amazing job Shawn Smucker did of portraying the messiness of healing and grieving.
We all experience “hells” or suffering here on earth, and although this book technically takes place in the afterlife, I think that it serves as a metaphor for our daily struggles.
Throughout the book, there were different layers of hell. Some included intense mourning and pain, while others consisted of plain sadness. We saw fear, denial, and lying.
What I appreciated most about the last section of the book is that the escape out of “hell” was not cut and dry. Each layer was messy, and some even included elements from other sections. The memories that would haunt or help did not come in any specific order. The characters at any given point were not even certain what was reality or not.
The definition of “hell” itself is not even clear. Is the suffering being caused by others, or simply from the consequences of their actions or feelings? “I could see long, deep scratches on the back of his neck. Were they the marks his abusers had left, or were they gouges of guilt, self-inflicted?”
Reading through the tangled mess, which remained a mess up until the last page, I couldn’t help but think of John 1:5:
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. “
Whether deep in the pit or close to the mountain in the East, there is a presence of darkness and light. In the pit, we see forgiveness. At the edge of the mountain on the other side, we see Kathy convince people to return to the pit. We can never escape the darkness, but we can focus on the Light that guides us. And even in our darkest of places, we can trust that the darkness will not, and CANNOT, overcome the Light.
Isn’t it curious when Dan FINALLY tells the truth? But before he confesses, he admits, “You wouldn’t be here if you knew me, if you knew what I did.”
And even though he thought it impossible, he was met with forgiveness. As messy as the rest of the story would continue to be, they are able to start a new life, in the Light. Hopefully they would never return to the darkened pit; but, even if they did, it would never be too late for forgiveness.
When have you experienced trying to climb out of the pit? Have you ever unexpectedly been met by a glimmer of light in a place of darkness?
August 31: No Book Club, learn about the next session of Connection Groups
We’re going in a direction we haven’t gone here in Book Club! Next month we are excited to be reading the book Rethinking Sexuality: God’s Design and Why It Matters by Dr. Juli Slattery. This book is going to feed into conversations and opportunities we have coming up and we feel like those discussions will be rich and helpful. Here’s a little bit more about the book!
“By contesting long-held cultural paradigms, this book equips you to see how sexuality is rooted in the broader context of God’s heart and His work for us on earth. It provides a framework from which to understand the big picture of sexual challenges and wholeness, and helps you recognize that every sexual question is ultimately a spiritual one. It shifts the paradigm from combating sexual problems to confidently proclaiming and modeling the road to sacred sexuality.”
Schedule for Rethinking Sexuality by Dr. Juli Slattery
September 7: Part 1 (Chapters 1-2)
September 14: Part 2 (Chapters 3-7)
September 21: Part 3 (Chapters 8-10
September 28: Part 4 (Chapters 11-12)