It pays to make a mess!
Brendan McManus SJ and Jim Deeds’ book, Finding God in the Mess, has won two gold awards in the USA. The book, originally published by Messenger Publications, was released by Loyola Press earlier in 2021 with minor alterations.
In the book the authors have taken an immensely practical approach to prayer. Guided meditations, storytelling, and images are offered to help people relate God’s compassion to their daily lives. The ‘messy’ realities of suffering, sorrow, loss, and grief may appear uncomfortable and uninviting, but the authors suggest they may be the place where God is ready to meet and bless us. The book continues to be a best-seller for Messenger Publications. Jim and Brendan have developed a retreat/workshop based on it, which they have delivered all around Ireland.
Brendan says: “The book was born out of a mess! While recovering from a fractured knee and in the midst of immobility and boredom, I came up with the idea for a book combining my photos and Jim’s reflections. When I got better, we walked the mountains that ring Belfast and discussed something that would speak to the messiness of people’s lives and help them find God there.”
For the authors, this meant tackling tough subjects such as depression, pain, and grief, as well as joy, peace, and happiness. The book was written from the twin perspectives of Ignatian spirituality and a focus on the asking for healing in ‘praying with the problem’. It invites readers to consider how each reflection and each image is revealing of God’s Spirit, even the messy ones.
Jim comments: “Often people have a tendency to separate things, as if I have God over here, and all the things that are going well, and I have the rest of my life over here.” He continues: “We’re trying to bring all that together in order that we can find what God wants for this, to bring God’s healing, to bring God’s light, to bring God’s life into those situations.”
He speaks warmly of the transformation that can happen if people can get over their resistance to letting God in and bring God into their darker moments. He added, “God can transform things for us if we can persevere in faith during our moments of greatest suffering and God’s apparent absence.”