Saturday, December 6, 2014

Wrestling for My Life

Wrestling for My Life: The Legend, the Reality, and the Faith of a WWE SuperstarWrestling for My Life: The Legend, the Reality, and the Faith of a WWE Superstar by Shawn Michaels
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Shawn Michaels is one of my all-time favorite wrestlers and when he became a Christian that finally validated my faith.  Okay, not really.  Like, not at all.  But that is how I used to think about things like this and how we often find ourselves operating.  We want God to choose the exalted people of the world because their salvation will really make a difference and, bonus!, we can know that our decision to follow Christ was worth it. “Hey, if (insert favorite celebrity here) thinks the Gospel is alright, then so do I…and so will so many!!”

Ridiculous, right?  But we do it.   And then, when someone in a public position is made alive by the Spirit of God, we put them under the greatest scrutiny we can muster.  Every word.  Every decision.  Every turn.  Every thought.   If you are a Christian and you blow it, don’t worry about the world coming after you.  We have blogs, message boards, youtube comments, emails, passing jabs, etc.  We exhibit an unhealthy love of breaking bruised reeds.  We are spiritual Darwinists who devour our weak out of some twisted desire to purify the spiritual gene pool.

These reasons combined, the borderline idolatry of celebrities and the excessive scrutiny of having a public faith, make a project like this book tricky to critique (and, I would assume, of even greater difficulty to put together in a God-honoring way).  I do not want to be a fan-boy simply because I am excited that a celebrity, one that has brought me hours of entertainment, has embraced the Christian faith.  I also do not want to be overly critical based on criteria I have created in regards to what a celebrity believer should be and what his memoir should look like.  Hopefully this review avoids both of those extremes.

Shawn is a wrestling personality.  This book is a wrestling book.  And it is a good one.  I enjoyed the back stories because, and it was skillful how it was done, Shawn did a terrific job weaving his faith throughout the stories.  He did not turn it into one object lesson after another, but he made a great effort to show how his faith affected his new life just as his lack of faith affected it before.

Shawn is not a pastor.  He is a, relatively, new believer.  He has obviously made great strides in his faith but he is not a scholar. He is not seminary trained.  And his book shows it.  That is not a dig.  It is refreshing to hear from this brother who simply loves the Lord and spends time in God’s word and under the ministry of his church.  The way he says things sometimes is unrefined and lacks the precision that would be necessary in pastoral counseling or in the ministry of the Word.  But the tone is not sermon.  It is more discipleship-over-coffee.  And it is nice.

Shawn is a believer who wants to use every opportunity he has to make much of the Lord.  That is the lens through which he views his role in the WWF(take that wildlife-lovers).  That is the lens through which he views his outdoor show, his marriage, his life.  And that is a trait that is worthy of emulation.  Follow Shawn as he follows the Lord in this way.  His book is, to him, another means of bringing honor and glory to the Lord.  That knowledge in itself makes this a work worth reading and enjoying.

Shawn is affiliated with a church that I have strong disagreements with; a church that has some teachings that greatly undermine the Gospel.  I was pleasantly surprised to find virtually none of those sorts of teachings find their way to his book.  In fact, I found Shawn to be wise beyond his spiritual years and I was greatly encouraged on numerous occasions.  He is transparent about his sin without ever glorying in it.  He is humble and God-honoring.  He offers some immensely practical ideas for spiritual growth and does so in a way that his “this worked for me” never comes across as “this is law for you.”  Many pulpits would benefit from this ability to lay out advice without undermining it with burden.

Where I was disappointed was in the fact that the Gospel was never explicitly discussed.  The need for it was mentioned.  Praying the “sinner’s prayer” was discussed.  Many of the benefits and struggles of the Christian life were discussed.  But the Gospel message of God’s redemption through the life, death, and resurrection of his sinless son was simply assumed.  The fact that the Gospel could be alluded to, referenced, and praised, but never be verbalized in a book by a vocal Christian and published by a Christian publisher is disappointing.   This aspect is a definite shortcoming and hopefully this will be made right before the final printing.

Overall this is a good book that many Shawn Michaels fans will greatly enjoy.  It has its ups and a few downs but is worth the time and money to read and enjoy.  A celebrity embracing the Christian faith does not validate it.  But it is nice to see a brother with a far-reaching voice so willing to use his opportunities to speak the truth of God into people’s lives.

* I received an ARC from the publisher for an honest review.

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