My students and I have been engaging in conversations about civil rights this summer.
It’s no coincidence that right now, during a wave of civil rights movements and a stronger push for equality, that all my students are African kids.
We’ve been reading a lot of books inspired by civil rights activists and leaders to guide our discussion. Several weeks ago, some of them and I read this one together – an illustrated graphic memoir about the early life of John Lewis.
This book left me in awe.
It’s set in Representative John Lewis’s office in Washington DC. It’s the day of Barack Obama’s inauguration, and as Lewis meets a couple of kids. The boys are intrigued by his story, and Lewis shares his journey through flashbacks to his own childhood.
In these flashbacks, I learned of his earliest days in rural Alabama. I scoffed at the school situation he grew up in as a black boy, especially compared to white students.
I read about his first road trip to the north, and how strange he felt to have a white neighbor for a summer. I felt his hurt when his parents urged him to stay home, keep quiet, and not to cause a trouble.
I heard his retelling a meeting with Martin Luther King Jr. that would set him on a life-changing trajectory to fight for civil rights. I read and really understood the challenges he was faced as a black man. I celebrated with him at the victories he and his colleagues made for equality.
As we read some of the injustices he faced, my kids asked – genuinely confused –
“What? Why? But that’s not fair.”
And how do you really answer when they ask why black kids couldn’t buy ice cream that was as good as the white kids’?
How do you explain to them why black schools were smaller and older, with broken playgrounds – if they were even lucky enough to have one in the first place? How do you tell them that black people weren’t treated fairly just because of the color of their skin?
It struck a chord in me because I learned that much of Senator Lewis’ activism was birthed in Nashville. It’s here, in my city, that he sparked a movement as a college student decades ago. He collaborated with other students to form the Nashville Student Movement, a battle to tear down segregation through nonviolent lunch counter sit-ins.
The book mentions roads and places, universities and landmarks, that I’ve been near my whole life. These places I’ve seen and where John Lewis participated in change all those years ago are one and the same. I marveled at the courage it took for people to stand up to make lasting change in our community.
It sounds crazy, but these little photo boxes and word bubbles shook me up.
John Lewis was on the front lines courageously facilitating change.
He played an integral part in changing my city for the better, and I had no clue until just a few weeks ago. I’m grateful for his courage to not only stand up decades ago, but to continue working for justice until his last day.
You probably know how this story turns out. Lewis’ work doesn’t stop in Nashville. It continues on, eventually leading him to seat in Congress.
I’m ashamed to admit it, but this graphic novel was my first time really hearing the story of John Lewis.
Although I’m disappointed to only now begin to understand it, I’m grateful that his legacy will continue on. So this weekend, as we mourn the loss of this leader, I can’t help but whisper a word of thanks for his work.
He stood up in adversity. He cast vision when he was told it was impossible. He believed in the possibility that every person, regardless of skin color, can be equally loved and treated.
This particular page I photographed weeks ago is of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s address to Nashville. I’ve read this inspiring quote before and nearly bought the t-shirt to prove it. What I didn’t know prior to reading this story is that this “great movement” that took place in the community was worked by John Lewis. This was the movement that Dr. King drew inspiration from and had to see for himself.
This was a movement that changed Nashville forever. I’m forever grateful for it and for Senator John Lewis’ vision to lead.
I’m patiently waiting to pick up the next books in the series from the library. I’m learning a lot this summer. I hope you are too.
In None Like Him, author Jen Wilkin describes 10 ways God is different from us, and why that’s actually really good news for us. These “10 ways” are actually 10 attributes, or personality traits, of God. By devoting each chapter to a different attribute, Wilkin teaches readers the intimate details of who God actually is by using scripture and experiences.
Not only does Wilkin discuss God, she discusses how and where we – people – fit in all of this. She graciously points out that we are limited by nature, and how at the root of our every sin is a desire to be God. The only problem is we’re no God-experts. We try to be like him, and we fail. We hurt others or ourselves. Although we desire it, we cannot possess these 10 attributes of God as our flesh attempts.
Here’s where the good news is: God has already displayed himself with glory. His entire being is glory. And though we do not measure up like him, there is actually a great amount of peace in that truth. In this journey of marveling at the wonder of God, we learn to see how our limitations can actually glorify God.
In None Like Him, Wilkin teaches readers about a magnificent God, and paints a picture of what true freedom in him looks like when we people recognize our small-ness in light of his glory; she turns our eyes upwards toward him. And that is a journey we can’t afford to miss out on.
Written for Devotion
Friends, I’ll be honest: it took me months to complete this book. And I had to restart it twice.
It’s not that the writing was bad – quite the opposite.
It’s not that I didn’t enjoy the book – actually, I loved it.
But, I wasn’t prepared for how deep this book would take me on a soul search.
None Like Him is written devotionally and is intended to give readers space and time to reflect. This is not a “cozy up on a rainy Saturday and read this in a day” kind of book. This is a “grab your coffee, pen, and journal, and pull up a chair, because we’ve got work to do” kind of book. I have to tell you that because I did not realize until I reached the end of the first chapter. I had to change my reading pattern for this book, instead of plowing through it like I’d originally expected to do. I had to do some prep work and make space for the time and thought this book asked of me. And really, I wasn’t ready for that the first time I picked it up.
Each chapter hones in on a study of one attribute of God. At the end of the chapter, Wilkin provides a few Bibles verses where we can see this, and encourages readers to write them down to meditate on.
Then, there are 4 reflection questions. These are not simple yes or no questions. Actually, these questions offer plenty of room for dialogue with God; Wilkin wastes no opportunity to spur on our thoughts and to challenge our hearts.
Finally, each chapter ends with a prayer model, in which readers are encouraged to write a prayer to the Lord. These prayers are sweet, because readers get to sit in awe of God and confess where we have attempted to glory like him.
For me, it took me roughly a week or so to complete a chapter.So a couple months to completely finish the book. I would read and reread the chapter. I’d set aside a day every week to read the chapter, and then use a day to meditate on the Scriptures, and yet another day to answer however many questions I had time for. I used this in conjunction with my Bible reading, but gleaned so much from it throughout the weeks by focusing on 1 attribute for several days.
If you’re going to read this, and I highly recommend you do, you have to be prepared for the time it will take to devote to this.
3 Reasons You Should Take the Time to Devote Real Study to This Book
One. Wilkin speaks to women with rich theological truth and application.
This is not an easy, frilly Bible study; our full attention and heart are required to grasp it. One reason is that Wilkin does not express these truths quickly or by cutting corners. She esteems our God-given ability to consider and meditate, and really hones in on it.
The examples of God’s attributes she offers? Well thought-out, and providing more than one angle of him. Wilkin gets into specific, relevant examples of how we might be might attempting to outshine God himself, and I really appreciated that.
The scripture she references and meditates on? Some are short verses, others are passages of several verses. And not all of them are those feel-good, Pinterest board ones, if you know what I mean. Wilkin clearly has started with and esteemed the Bible throughout this book. She obviously believes it wholeheartedly.
The reflection questions? Certainly not yes or no questions, but real questions of us. Questions that require thought and muddling, and open important doors of conversation between us and God.
The prayer models? These walk us through adoring, confessing, thanking and asking of him. These are not simple prayers, but these are honest. Real. Bold.
The prayer and study that Wilkin has poured into this book are obvious on every page; not a line is wasted. This is not just someone telling us what she thinks. None Like Him is the product of true study that we, too, can be a part of. How beautiful it is that God has made us to think.
Two. You are not too good for this book.
Honestly, one reason I thought I’d breeze through this is because I’m familiar with the attributes of God. After all, I have a degree in theology. I know this stuff, right?
I might be familiar with his attributes, but as Wilkin shows us, we can never exhaust our potential to reflect on the wonder of God. Just when I think I might really understand him, another angle of him is revealed to me. This is the beautiful part of walking with him: there is always room to wonder and always something more to uncover.
I needed this if only to be humbled, and to be reminded that I don’t have it – life or him – all figured out and why it’s all okay. I needed to be reminded of my own limitations. It felt as though the exact personality marker of God that I was learning about had shown up in my life in unhealthy, sinful ways at the same time. Having light shed on that was tremendously helpful in helping me navigate bearing his image, and get rid of some junk and messiness in my soul and practices.
Three. The conversations you’re going to have with God are worth it.
I’ve probably scared you away from this, talking about the challenges and all that. However, here’s a wonderful not-so-secret: Jesus is not hard to find. If you come to be with him, he is thrilled to host you. If you can put aside yourself long enough to see how this God of Ages has been loved and preached by generations, you will be amazed. If you’re willing to put in the time and work, this book could change you.
My hands have filled dozens and dozens of journal pages because of the journey None Like Him took me on. It seemed that each chapter I read came at a perfect time, and spoke to a sin or misplaced desire in my heart at that very second. Most of all, I received wisdom from God to rid myself of burdens and hindrances in my walk while journeying through these pages of None Like Him.
That gift of understanding and communion of God is something I desire for not only myself, but everyone I might come across – family, friends, enemies. We all need this message. We need to know who this God of the universe really is. We do need help in making sense of him.
You can do this. You can know God. As we seek to walk as women of the Word and full of wisdom, would we start here: in knowing that we live for a God who is all we could ever hope for – perfectly, without flaw or failings. We are not victims, but are empowered to celebrate his self-existent, self-sufficient, eternal, immutable, omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent, sovereign, infinite, and incomprehensible Being. We can actually find great peace in our limitations, and great joy in Who he is.
No matter where you stand with God, I would deeply encourage you to give this book a try, because God is all over these pages. And I know he’d want nothing more than to meet you there.
A friend and I sat on her porch in the mid-summer heat. It was barely 8:00 AM, and already, the humidity wrapped itself around us; heaviness on our skin. We clutched warm coffee mugs in our hands, and allowed the stillness of the moment to help our bodies recover from our early morning yoga.
During this summer, she and I had made a little pact between each other to get involved at church. One step we made in this decision was attending weekly Theology classes. So for several Tuesday nights, she and I would ride together and study the Word well into the evening. The other women seemed to fit in so comfortably in that room, but for us, it was a stretch of out of our comfort zone. We were glad to be there.
We’d been studying the attributes of God in this class by using Jen Wilkin’s None Like Him. And as my friend and I sat on her porch that morning, reflecting on what God had been working in our lives that summer, she offered me her copy of the book.
These were days marked by growing friendship and stepping into the often awkwardness of community, and it was all so beautiful. And what else can you do, but humbly receive such a gift?
So, thank you to my dear friend. You know who you are.