Book Review: Wrecked, by Jeff Goins

On January 29, 2014 by Eric
Wherever there is pain without explanation, hope amidst despair, redemption in spite of tragedy, that’s where they wanted to be. Walking away from each experience, people would tell me how they felt, and they all used the same interesting word: wrecked.

Have you been there? Have you ever seen pain without explanation? Hope amidst despair? Redemption in spite of tragedy? Maybe you’ve had experiences where you’ve been moved by compassion to help someone in need, only to realize after helping that you feel a little worse than before?

Then chances are, you’ve probably been wrecked.

What Being Wrecked Means

Ruined. Devastated. Undone. Their lives were forever changed, and there was no returning to how life used to be. Their paradigms had shifted. Their worldview was infected with a contagion that was spreading to every facet of their life.

Wrecked: When A Broken World Slams Into Your Comfortable Life, by Jeff GoinsIn Wrecked: When a Broken World Slams Into Your Comfortable Life, author Jeff Goins’ tells of a common thread he heard from not only missionaries working throughout the world, but also every day people in the States. They were coming into contact with the pain and brokenness in this world, and walking away wrecked.

Being wrecked is to have a change in perspective. It’s to experience another person’s suffering and come away changed. It’s when the driving forces in our day-to-day lives–money, power, fame–become trivial in light of the needs of this world. It’s to trade the comforts that leave us empty for compassion and suffering that lead us to see what’s truly valuable.

My Experience Being Wrecked

While reading Wrecked, you can’t help but think back through your life pinpoint a time where you were wrecked. I reflect back on the experiences I’ve had in different places and times in my life–mission trips, jobs, etc.–in an attempt to find that moment where I can say “Yes, that was the day. That was the day I was wrecked. That was the day my perspective on the world changed forever.”

Above all, the time that stands out to me is the work Bethany and I have been doing in Haiti with Praying Pelican over the last two years. Short term mission trips, especially to third-world countries, are great at putting you in situations well beyond the comforts of first-world America.

On my first trip to Haiti, I was overwhelmed. Between seeing the communities our teams partner in, getting to know children at our orphanage partnerships, seeing my wife struggle to make a lasting impact at the orphanage she was working in, and pressing to make improvements in a healthy way–not just barging into their orphanage and doing what we thought needed to be done–it was a lot to take in. Combine that with the realization that making real progress takes time, effort, energy, frustration, sweat, tears, emotions, patience, time, patience, trust… it’s enough to wreck you.

Having seen poverty and spent time with those that are outcasts in society, it’s near impossible to walk away and still see the world through the same lens. So, through all those experiences, how do we make sense of our lives back home in America? How can we continue to live our “comfortable” lives? We still wrestle with these questions, and I’ve decided maybe that’s how it’s supposed to be.

When The Adventure Ends

When I heard the topic of Wrecked, I knew right away it needed to be on my list of books to read. Now, after having spent several weeks reading and chewing on the material, I can say without hesitation that anyone who spends their time doing work related to helping those in less fortunate circumstances needs to read this book.

Doing good sometimes feels bad. - Jeff Goins, WreckedThe reason I am so adamant about spreading the love for Wrecked is that I believe it hits on a topic that Bethany and I have been dancing around for some time, but haven’t been able to put our finger on:

Why is it that, though we love our job and feel it is a privilege to be able to “do good” for people across the globe, we find ourselves feeling downright awful at times? Aren’t you supposed to feel better about a life spent helping people in need?

It’s a piece of what Christ calls us to do as disciples. Taking care of those marginalized, we’re walking in His footsteps. So that should mean our days are always full of rainbows and sunshine… right?

I can’t help but wonder why nobody let me in on this secret:

If you want to get into work that involves helping needy people because you think it will make you feel better, then you had better change career paths. The last thing you will feel is good.

There is an unsettling feeling that comes with helping others: knowing that you’re helping, and yet knowing that you could never do enough.

When it hits, it comes on like a ton of bricks. It is hard to make peace with in your mind. Brokenness in this world goes way beyond the material level. In some way, we are all broken people. How can I, this broken person, make any difference at all in such a broken world?

I can get the sense that we are making a difference from the gratitude of those around us. I’ve been thanked time and time again during conversations with pastors we work with. Orphanage directors we partner with ask us to come again soon. Their words say to me that we are making a difference.. but why do I sometimes struggle with the feeling that we aren’t?

In a previous post recapping last summer, I shared that often times I find myself falling into a routine when we’re in country, leading teams for weeks on end. It’s also in these moments that I feel like I’m making the least impact in the lives of those around me. This was an upsetting realization–until I came across this quote in Wrecked:

This is the really hard part of getting wrecked–when the adventure ends. Even if you end up living in Africa, holding babies and living in mud huts, the adventurous feeling will eventually go away. Eventually it’ll just feel like a normal day at the office. And this is okay. Natural, even. This is how it’s supposed to be.

Perhaps what I thought was our work not making an impact is really just an absence of a feeling of adventure. Eventually, the adventure does wear off. At some point, if you ever want to see long term progress and truly feel like you’re a part of something, you have to be ready to stick to your commitments long after the excitement is gone.

Short Term Missions

It's hard to get your heart broken on the couch. -Jeff Goins, WreckedWrecked really drove home another idea that my mind has been chasing for a long time. My job revolves around a “hot topic” in the Christian world: short term mission trips (STMs). The debate surrounding the efficacy of these sort of trips is ongoing.. not only in Christian circles, but in my mind as well. I find myself working to sort out this argument in my mind every day.

To my knowledge, there isn’t a Biblical mandate for week long trips to help another church or community. Jesus didn’t say “Go ye therefore into all the world for one week each summer…”

So, what’s the motivation? Are short-term missions worthwhile?

It all depends on your perspective and what you believe the purpose of a short-term mission trip is. The reason there’s such a debate around STMs is because, to be honest, STMs aren’t the be-all end-all of the mission world. They are only a small piece with a specific purpose, and there is vast potential for STMs to cause more damage than good if not done through the proper channels and with the right frame of mind, a humble attitude, and healthy dose of cultural sensitivity.

So, what’s the purpose of STMs? Why spend that chunk of money for such a small week of ministry?

After reading Wrecked, I gained some further clarity on these questions. Jeff describes time and again experiences that show STMs are a fantastic opportunity to be wrecked. Many of the examples in Wrecked of people who have had a change in perspective are taken straight from missions experiences, both short term and longer term.

STM – It’s About Relationships

For someone who lives in America, where life can be incredibly comfortable relative to the majority of the world, being wrecked sometimes takes being removed from that comfort and dropped into another way of life, side-by-side with people who struggle daily with parts of life that we so easily take for granted.

Short-term missions are a means to an end. And the end is connection. We are connecting our hearts to the needs of the world. But if that connection doesn’t lead to deeper change–in those serving and being served–it’s pointless. Long-term change and transformation is what we’re going for here. Not a subculture addicted to short-term commitments that leave a temporary high, only to be replaced by skepticism and an emotional gap to be filled next summer. Short-term missions can wreck us, but if the means becomes the end, then we have failed.

So, with that thought in mind, it’s not hard to see how some people can argue that short-term mission trips are a waste of money. In most cases, spending a week working in a community isn’t, by itself, going to cause a long-lasting impact.

It has to go deeper than the physical work done during the week.

We always tell our teams in Haiti that the projects they will be working on during the week aren’t the number one priority of the trip. We emphasize that the real reason they are there is relationships. We encourage them to be intentional in getting to know the people in the community they are partnering with:  learn their names, meet their families, hear their stories, and learn from them. Through that new relationship, choose to see the world through a new set of eyes.

And when the trip ends, we encourage them to not close that chapter of their life and move on. Instead, let the end of the mission trip be the starting point of a new way of life.

If you return home from a mission trip, pick up your life exactly where you left it at the airport, and continue on with no change in the way you think about life, then you’ve missed out on the most valuable piece of your mission trip. Don’t let it go to waste!

What About You?

Those are my thoughts on a few parts of the book that really hit home with me. There’s plenty more inside, so I encourage you to go pick up a copy and give it a read. (Also, if you’re into writing and/or blogging, you should definitely check out Jeff’s website. He has a lot of resources available to help you become a more effective writer.)

If you’ve ever been wrecked and want to share your experience (or maybe you’ve read Wrecked and have some thoughts you’d like to add), we’d love to hear about it in the comments!


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