Book Review of Take Heart: Letters of Faith, Hope and Love
“It takes a millennial to understand a millennial.”
I was intrigued by this line from Grace Chong’s Foreword for Take Heart: Letters of Faith, Hope, and Love, published by Church Strengthening Ministries (CSM) this year. So I grabbed a copy and read it.
Take Heart collects 30 short letters, written by 14 millennials (30 years old or younger) for an imagined millennial going through tough issues such as joblessness, unanswered prayer, heartbreak, self-esteem, tight finances, pregnancy out of wedlock, and more. As the subtitle says, these letters are arranged in three clusters: faith, hope and love (1 Corinthians 13:13).
It is a beautiful book for at least three reasons:
First, each letter begins with a portrait of the hypothetical recipient in a particular dire strait. The writing is so picturesque that I found my heart aching with empathy. You can practically feel the sorrow, see the tears and hear the groan. Consider:
Second, the writer then identifies with the recipient. Transitions such as “I, too…” or “I once stood where you are right now” shows how the writer had trudged through similar dark valleys and shed the same tears. In so doing, the letter has earned its right to be read.
Third, the writer points the recipient to Christ. This echoes the structure of the Psalms: the unabashed woe, followed by an unflinching trust in God’s goodness. There are some paragraphs which I feel borders on being preachy, but overall the book encourages out of experience.
I rejoice at this. Millennials have gotten a bad rap for being narcissistic, entitled or shallow. Take Heart debunks that stereotype. Each letter sparkles with compassion and wisdom, showing how a youngster can be mature beyond his years.
Be ready for delightful turns as you go through the book. Check out, for example, the touching symmetry of “Loved with an Everlasting Love”. The last four words of “Loving Even from Afar” left me saying “awwwww”. “Confronting the Plight of Superman” has a stirring, triumphant coda that still gives me goosebumps whenever I think about it. “Waiting for God’s Best” proves why it’s worth the wait.
I also savored the sympathetic salutations (“Dear Missing Stone”, “Dear Pressured Provider”, “My dear shattered one”) and closings (“Waiting to see your real beauty”, “Looking forward to see you smile again”, “Rooting for you”).
If there is something I wish this book can be improved on, it is that out of the 14 writers, only one is male. One of his two pieces is a passionate love letter to his future wife. (Sorry, ladies, I don’t have his mobile number.) While doubtless this was outside of CSM’s control, a gender balance would be nice. Spirituality is not feminine; the world needs more tender warriors of the Gospel.
Back to Grace Chong, her Foreword muses why millennials are different from her generation and mine, the Baby Boomers. For example, why do millennials love to take photos of themselves? With due respect to her, such differences are superficial. Take away their Facebook and YOLOs, and you will uncover aches and angst that are true for every generation. Heck, I wrestled with the same issues when I was their age, 30 years ago!
Oh, by the way, in those days, instead of smartphones, we had those bulky Olympus cameras that store images on Kodak film (remember ‘em?). It was difficult getting selfies with those babies. But I digress.
All in all, Take Heart is a book you’d like to hold close to your… well, heart. While one may say that it takes a millennial to understand a millennial, a millennial can also understand Baby Boomers, too. All we need is to listen to each other.