There has never been a book I’ve loathed more than In His Steps. When I was about ten years old, my class was assigned to read it for English, and it was undoubtedly one of my top three worst school assignments. I can’t remember how many times I threw this book across the room, but I can tell you that it still has the dents to prove it. My parents also tried reading the novel but failed and took their complaints to my teacher.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t my last encounter with this book. At fifteen, I was yet again faced with the doom of having In His Steps included in my English class. After adamantly refusing even to pick it up, I was thankfully given the option to read another classic instead. I never thought it was possible to have trauma from a book that wasn’t a horror story, but for years In His Steps has been the definition of a nightmare to me.
It seems that this book has a way of coming back into my life every five years. I’ve had endless chances to throw it in the trash, but something has made me hold onto it. Now, at twenty-one years old, I can finally say that I have successfully finished In His Steps, word for word! The achievement feels fantastic, and I must say that I was quite surprised by the storyline.
The narrative begins with a homeless man knocking on Reverend Henry Maxwell’s door to inquire after a job. As pastor at First Church in the town of Raymond, Maxwell was in the middle of writing a sermon when the knock comes. After turning the homeless man away and returning to his preparations, the reverend doesn’t give the man a second thought; that is, until that Sunday when the same man stands up after Maxwell’s teaching and delivers a speech that moves the entire room and challenges Maxwell’s view on Christian discipleship.
The following Sunday, after a week of study and prayer, Maxwell stands at the pulpit and invites the members of First Church to join him in a year-long journey of asking “What Would Jesus Do?” before making a single decision. Astonishingly, many members join Reverend Maxwell in the pledge, having no idea what kind of wake-up call they are about to receive. For the first time, those who take the pledge had to reflect on their lives and decide whether or not they are following in Jesus’ footsteps. But will they be able to complete the year, or will the sacrifices be too great?
I can’t believe I’m about to write this, but… In His Steps was actually quite inspiring. As I read each page, I also found myself looking at my life, wondering if I lived in a Christ/Yeshua-like way. Over the last couple of months, God has been teaching me how to live by His Spirit, so reading this book couldn’t have come at a more perfect time.
Written over a hundred years ago, In His Steps is still relevant in many ways, though it comes across as quite Baptist and old-fashioned in its approach to certain topics. It highlights the hibernation of the church and the importance of answering the call to action. Too often, people become Christians to get their ‘ticket’ into heaven without making any changes to their lives, but they’re missing what the coming to faith is really about! We aren’t called to live through the motions but to lay our lives at the Father’s feet, living solely for Him rather than ourselves. Many of us get stuck in the mindset that it’s enough to go to church every Sunday, pay tithes, and say, “God bless you,” but being a follower of Jesus is so much more than that!
I hope that when people read this book, they will wake up by the voice of the Spirit and be inspired to live their lives in Yeshua’s footsteps, rather than following what the world expects. I understand that some of us are called to work 9 to 5 jobs, go to college, have a steady paycheck, etc., but many others are called to live by faith, having no clue what tomorrow will bring. With that in mind, we shouldn’t feel discouraged if we are not the people who are called to sell everything and go around the world preaching the Gospel; instead, we need to ask God what we can do to help those working for the Kingdom and how we can bring change into our community. More than ever, it’s time to stand up for our faith and proclaim the Father’s will against those trying to destroy it!
Not everyone will enjoy this book. I believe that it’s one of those novels that, like Marmite, people will either hate or like. It took years, but I’m not ashamed to say that I did enjoy reading In His Steps. I knew there was a reason I kept this book all these years; it just goes to show that God can use the things we hate the most to speak into our lives! I’m not sure if I’ll ever reread this book, but I will recommend it to those who are striving to live after God. I pray that young children are no longer forced to read this book because it’s a work that deserves to be respected and not thrown across a room. (Sorry, Charles Sheldon)