I’ll be honest – this is not a book I would normally read. In fact, this may be one of the only books in the genre of “self help” that I’ve ever read. (Labels like this can be minimizing, but I don’t mean it to be. I simply mean the book is designed to give advice and empower a reader in their personal life.)
It’s certainly not because I don’t need help, or because I’m resistant to accepting it. It’s just that I don’t usually turn to books for that. I tend to look for books that want to teach me something and leave it to me to apply it. Maybe I’m just stubborn and don’t like being told what to do, preferring just to be given the information to process myself. The closest I’ve gotten is Brene Brown, but even she considers herself a researcher, presenting her findings.
So when I decided to be an early reader for the launch team of It’s Not Your Turn, you know that it’s for a different reason. That reason? Its author, Heather Thompson Day. I’ve followed her on Twitter for a while, interacted several times, even messaged her a little back and forth one time. I don’t always agree with her theologically, but there is a sincerity and authenticity to her that is unmatched by anyone I know on social media at her “level” of following. She seems like someone worth listening to on whatever she is talking about, even if I knew at times I would disagree.
And I did disagree a fair amount. Part of my resistance to “self-help” in the Christian genre is that ideas of goals, empowerment, and success for Christians can often be indistinguishable from secular visions of these same things, and I can’t really reconcile that with Jesus. While I think Thompson Day wants to and even hints at distinguishing between worldly success and the way of Jesus, many of the studies she cites and people she quotes represent the former more than the latter. I am automatically turned off by any study that is aimed at emulating what “Top CEO’s” do, for example. She also quotes Tony Robbins (a known jerk who has been accused of sexual assault by more than 10 women) and Mark Zuckerberg (who values his profits over the security of elections.) This took me out of the book at times, and made me wish it had dedicated time early on to delineate what “success” looks like from her Christian worldview, and then applied that to her examples and exemplars.
Nevertheless, Heather shines through. The book is nuanced, and speaks boldly in calling Christians to account on issue of racism, homophobia, and sexual abuse. It takes stances on divisive issues like the testimony of Christine Blasey Ford, being matter-of-fact about them rather than using them toward a particular political message. The engagement of these topics without tip-toeing is unheard of in a book like this. And Heather’s own story is the best tool she has at her disposal and deploys it effectively. This is not to downplay the incredible amount of applied research on communication and social science she employs–this book also easily functions as Communications and Sociology 101. Heather is storyteller, teacher, and life-coach all at the same time.
Ultimately, if you are a Christian who reads in this genre, you will probably have a hard time doing better than this. The attention to detail, and the studious but accessible nature with which the book is written is couched in Heather’s humility, warmth, and vulnerability. While I’m sure she has taken the stage many times throughout her life, reading this book is not like attending a seminar in a packed auditorium. It’s like having a conversation with a friend who is genuinely invested in your life. And for the most part, I would rather have the connection of a friend I sometimes disagree with than a cold, condescending speech by someone I’m perfectly in-step with.
My biggest takeaway from the book is the simple but monumental truth that whoever you are while you’re waiting your turn is the person you will be once you get it. I needed to hear that, and need to re-hear it almost daily. Would the book have been just as valuable to me if it were just that idea for 200 pages? Possibly. But that says more about me than it does about the book.