[Note: Not only am I an author, I am also an avid reader. It is my hope to offer periodic book reviews to give you a glimpse at my bookshelf, and hopefully encourage you to pick up a good book. Most of what I read is from a Christian worldview, although I do read some secular books from time to time.]
Cure for the Common Life – Living in Your Sweet Spot
By Max Lucado
Published 2005 by W Publishing Group
I really love the way God works. He knows just what we need and when we need it.
My husband and I are both avid garage sale-ers. We love a good rummage. I especially love them because they provide me a way to stock up my book shelves at rock-bottom prices. Going to garage sales all summer means I have plenty of reading material to get me through the winter. Mark sometimes gets impatient with my insatiable appetite for books. He thinks I’m wasting my time digging through boxes of moldy paperbacks instead of going for the items of more monetary value.
One day in late summer I stopped at a local church that was holding a rummage sale to earn money for a young parishioner who is going through cancer. Church sales often provide me with some of my best reading material because I love Christian fiction and, even though I’m an author and make money from book sales and royalties, I’m cheap. So, I immediately dropped down on my knees and dug through the boxes of books on the floor. I came up with several, including Max Lucado’s “Cure for the Common Life”. I am a big fan of Max Lucado and already have a shelf-full of his older books, so I was immediately drawn to this one. Also, the two yellow Labrador retrievers reclining on a sofa on the cover didn’t hurt!
At this point in time, I had not yet decided to return to work as a preschool teacher. I had no idea how this book would affect me or how badly I would need its counsel. I brought the books I purchased home and stuffed them into my already overflowing bookcase and didn’t think much more about them. It was a week or two later that I made the decision to return to my former job and went through a period of questioning God’s will for my life. I wrote about that struggle in my post The Winding Road.
The first day of school arrived and I admit I wasn’t overflowing with excitement. I was still struggling with the question – Am I doing the right thing? Is this God’s will for me?
For some reason, when I got home after that first day back to work, I rummaged around on my bookshelf looking for something to read. My hand came away with Max Lucado’s book. I didn’t even get to finish reading the acknowledgments before my husband walked in the door, so I set the book aside. But something about it had pricked my interest and the next day after work I picked it up again and proceeded to devour the text in a few short days. I was blown away that God would put this book in my hands at this time, just when I needed it!
Cure for the Common Life spoke directly to my situation. It’s all about finding your “sweet spot” in life – that spot where you are living exactly where God intends. It’s that place where your everyday life, your strengths and God’s glory all come together in a perfect combination. I had been struggling with knowing for certain that going back to preschool teaching was the right decision. Was I supposed to give up my dreams of writing? Was I making a wrong choice? I truly didn’t know. And the more I tried to figure it out, the more confused I became. Then I read these word:
“Our Maker gives assignments to people, ‘to each according to each one’s unique ability’ (Matt. 25:15). As he calls, he equips. Look back over your life. What have you consistently done well? What have you loved to do? Stand at the intersection of your affections and successes and find your uniqueness.”
Stand at the intersection of your affections and successes and find your uniqueness.
Lucado continues to write: “You have one. A divine spark. An uncommon call to an uncommon life. ‘The Spirit has given each of us a special way of serving others’ (1 Cor. 12:7 CEV).”
I had only read through the first chapter and already felt transformed. I started to feel right about my work as a preschool teacher. I could see the intersection of my love for children and teaching them and how so many parents were thrilled to see me back in the classroom. I had been successful as a teacher. I began to believe that perhaps I had made the right choice, after all.
In the second chapter Lucado writes about how each of us were born “prepacked” by God. Each of us were born to complete a divine assignment and were given the tools to do the job. I was reminded of what I had written in The Winding Road, where I had told of being equipped to teach preschoolers when I became an aunt at the age of 7 and spent my entire life at the “kids’ table”. Cure for the Common Life reminded me that I was “packed on purpose, for a purpose”.
Lucado encourages readers to find their sweet spot by reading their lives backwards. He says we all need to “study our S.T.O.R.Y.” to discover where we belong and where we are supposed to go. S.T.O.R.Y. is an acronym for strengths, topics, optimal conditions, relationships, and Yes! There is even a very helpful study guide that makes up the second half of the book to help readers discover their S.T.O.R.Y. and find their sweet spot.
But why do we need to find a “sweet spot”? Lucado tells us that once we find our sweet spot, that place that is designed specifically for us, then we can “Make a Big Deal out of God” and we can do it “Every Day of our Lives”. In the second section of the book, about Making a Big Deal out of God, he recounts the parable of the talents. In his retelling of the story, I saw a truth about the parable – and myself – for the first time. Lucado explains why the third servant, the one who hid his talent in the ground – was called wicked and lazy. It was all in how the servant saw his master. The third servant saw his master as hard and cruel, so he responded in fear. As I read this section of the book, I saw myself in the third servant. I was afraid God would be mad at me if I made the wrong job choice. I expected wrath and condemnation. I was failing to see God as loving and gracious. After all, He has given me my “talents”, would He want me to bury them in the ground?
Once we discover our uniqueness and start using our prepacked talents to make a Big Deal out of God, we can then learn how to do it Ever Day of our Lives. Meaning we can live every day in our sweet spot. We can love our jobs. We can even make our work part of our worship. Lucado also helps readers learn how to “pause on purpose” and learn how to say no to some good things so we can say yes to the right things. There is even a chapter to help parents unpack their kids S.T.O.R.Y. so they can unlock the door to their child’s uniqueness.
If you are feeling frustrated with your life, if you are questioning God’s will for you and feel like you have been stuck on the winding road going nowhere, then I would highly recommend Max Lucado’s book Cure for the Common Life. I can honestly say I found it to be transformational in my own quest to find God’s purpose for me.