Some books take me for a wild ride in my imagination to other worlds, times, experiences, and place. Other books fill my head with new information. Some books proverbially rock my world and cause me to rethink what I thought I already knew.
Witness doesn’t quite fit into any of those categories for me. It’s a familiar story with familiar characters. Yet it has been an incredibly insightful book for me — not because of the story itself. Instead, it is the way the main character tells her story that makes this book well-worth reading. And it’s a quick read, too! (Keep reading . . . no spoilers.)
Debbie Webb and Mary Owen almost effortlessly weave together a story (a testimony, if you will) of Mary Magdalene. This book is written as a series of letters from Mary to a (young?) man. It is through these letters that you read and experience critical moments in Mary’s life as her faith takes shape, as she sees Christ working in her life.
For most people that are familiar with the gospels, the stories are not new. Webb & Owen take some liberties with the accounts from scripture, but none that I’d consider to be a radical distortion of the gospels’ intent. (It is good to remember that this is a fictionalized account of Mary’s life. It does have a strong basis in scripture, but some of it is literary license — artfully done.)
For me, what makes this book special is that it puts flesh on the people with whom Jesus made contact. Sometimes, I fail to see those people as real, live people. I catch myself thinking of them as two-dimensional figures in history — they existed in a time and a place, little more than a little ink on a sheet of onionskin paper. I subconsciously think: They’re not like us. Our lives are messy sometimes. We’re distracted. We have disappointments and unfulfilled dreams, good days and bad days, close friends and abusive relationships. At best, I find myself looking in their story for a principle or rule for living. Not so, this time.
Witness helped put a face, an emotional context, on Mary Magdalene that I could not ignore. These letters have moments of raw and heated fury — and moments of tender, desperate longing. My heart broke and soared along with hers. It is the story of an emotional (& spiritual) journey of a real person who encounters Jesus, is buffeted by the circumstances of life, and is able to find strength and encouragement through it . . . because of her desperate love of Christ and his influence on her.
A walk with Christ is not one of facts and figures, times and places, logic and rules. Those play a role. But I think the essence of this journey is found in yearning to be with him — not in some far-off, eternal, in the next-life kind of way — but today. And then letting him change who we are, who I am.
More information about Webb & Owen and their ministry can be found on their website. (Curious what those symbols on the front cover mean?)