Van Til Tool

Using the Van Til Perspective as the tool to discover what life means and how it ought to be lived.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


God Deals With Some Super-Dysfunctional Parents

A Review of

Mary DeMuth A Slow Burn (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009)
368 pp $14.99 ISBN-10: 0310278376 ISBN-13: 978-0310278375

Reviewed by: Forrest W. Schultz

The theme of Mary DeMuth's Defiance Texas trilogy is, I believe, best described by the title I have chosen for this review: "God Deals With Some Super-Dysfunctional Parents". In the first volume, Daisy Chain, the focus at first is on two fourteen-year-old friends -- Daisy Chance and Jed Pepper, especially Daisy's mysterious disappearance and its impact upon Jed. As the story unfolds, the focus becomes shifted to underlying spiritual factors in the drama, especially their dysfunctional parents.

The second volume, A Slow Burn, explores the loathsome features of this dysfunctionality, especially in Daisy's mother, Emory Chance, who, as the story progresses, sees ever more clearly her many sins and her need for God's salvation from them. Her efforts in this direction, however, are at first quite feeble and are countered by her extreme stubborness, so that it becomes quite exasperating after a while to be continually encountering her rebellion against God's work of drawing her to Himself. Consequently, her conversion is a long drawn-out process which is very different from any "easy believist" notions! As the second volume draws to a close, Emory finally yields to God's grace and it appears that Ouisie Pepper (Jed's mother) is on the verge of repentance, thus suggesting that her conversion may be the theme of the third volume.

God uses various people in His work in Emory's life, including Daisy, Daisy's father David (whom Emory did not marry), her boss Big Earl, her drug supplier Angus, the Defiance policeman Officer Spelman, and especially Hixson Jones. In a manner remarkably similar to the experience of the prophet Hosea, Hixson is commanded by God to marry Emory! A good bit of the story is taken up with the suffering Hixson undergoes as he strives to obey God, which finally leads to a a very dramatic denouement.

The great importance of Hixson's suffering is clear not only from the story itself but
also from the quotation in the preface to the story which is taken from Henri Nouwen's book Wounded Healer. This quotation makes this very important point in the form of a rhetorical question: "Who can take away suffering without entering it?". Thus, the healer in the process of healing becomes wounded. This is reminiscent of the provocative Section IV of the second poem in T. S. Eliot's Four Quartets, which emphatically proclaims that healing can only be provided by the "wounded surgeon", the "dying nurse". In short, God's gracious salvation involves the radical surgical removal of the cancer of sin.

Another way of expressing this comes from the pen of another great writer and thinker, Chuck Colson, "Mary DeMuth has a true gift for showing how God’s light can penetrate even the darkest of situations.”


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