Are you a fan or a follower? Have you put aside all of your ‘gods’ so that God can be at the center of your life? These are the questions that Kyle Idleman, teaching pastor at Southeast Christian Church (Louisville, Ky.) has asked in his previous books. Now, he challenge his readers to consider the ways they need to turn back to God for guidance and peace through the Parable of the Prodigal Son, told by Jesus in Luke 15, through an “aha” moment. Want to go deeper in your relationship with God? This is a good place to start.
Idleman’s writing style is a mix of humorous (and poignant) anecdotes and theology that blends historical and experiential points of view. The pastor/teacher has an easy-to-read delivery that seems conversational and intimate without ever breaking into sloppy or flippant, and we feel like what he has to say is material he’s processed already. It’s easier to be critiqued when he’s critiquing himself, but it’s a straightforward critique of where we fall on the prodigal son’s timeline.
Idleman’s three main ‘acts’ are Sudden Awakening, Brutal Honesty, and Immediate Action. He encourages us to reflect introspectively on our lives and not wait for something tragic to change our trajectory, but to turn away from whatever the problematic behavior or attitude is. (It could be big like not-faith to faith, or a subset category of a life of faith.) The anecdotes are reasonable, both negative as problems to avoid and positive as a means of a person turning their life around. My favorite story is about Jonathan Haidt’s psychological test for how people would examine a life story and decide what to edit out to make it better, versus accepting as a means of being driven closer to God.
In the second section, Idleman grabbed me (and the human experience) with a story about Dateline (or a Dateline-like show) examining hotel rooms for what real clean looks like. We all have a tendency to deny how things really are, and Idleman pushes for us to be honest with ourselves and each other. His focus includes the excuses we make instead of being honest with ourselves, and that alone is worth it.
Finally, in the third section, we explore the way that awareness plus honesty should lead to action. We see the things we do (or don’t do) even when we know we should, and Idleman uses our health as an example. I was a fan of the story about heart surgery survivors who don’t improve their health after the surgery because their aha moment hasn’t actually changed anything. What we do with the information matters, and that matters.
Aha: Awakening, Honesty, Action gives us a good overview of the Parable of the Prodigal Son with Idleman’s insight, humor, and experience. It also challenges us to consider what changes we should make in our lives and what could be if God was at the center of our lives, if we’d recognize that God loves us like that.