For Tyndale Blogging Network, I am reviewing My Imaginary Jesus by Matt Mikalatos. As part of agreeing to read the book in its entirity and providing an honest review about it, I was provided a free copy of the book to keep.
This is the first book I have read of Matt Mikalatos, who is an author living in the Portland area with his wife and three children. Before seeing this book offered as a title to review for Tyndale, I had not heard of Mr. Mikalatos before.
My Imaginary Jesus has an interesting theme in it of how a lot of people make Jesus in their own image, rather than the other way around in that we were created in God's image. In the course of telling his story, we meet his Imaginary Jesus that he has had over the years, including the current one he had at the start of the story, the one that he expected to fix his parking tickets for him since he prayed about it, the one who likes the same people and things that he likes. Through the course of the story, he runs into a lot of other Imaginary Jesus in his search to find the real Jesus after he meets up with the Apostle Peter in a restaurant who tells him that Mr. Mikalatos' Jesus is not the real Jesus because he has met and spent time with the real one and this one is nothing like the real Jesus he knew. There is an underlying tragedy that happened in the author's life that he is still dealing with that comes out in the course of the book and he is dealing with why God allowed this particular event to happen. Eventually, at the end of the story he does have an encounter with the real Jesus and it puts into perspective why that particular event happened to him and that despite his thinking God was not walking with him through it and had abandoned him, that it grieved God just as much as it grieved him. The book ends with him receiving good news that is a wonderful blessing for him.
Honestly, I have mixed feelings about this book. Having not known or read anything from this author before, I wasn't sure what to expect and perhaps this is his usual style of writing and telling a story, I couldn't relate with how he was laying out the story and telling it. I understood his premise of what he was trying to convey, but his approach as he tried to weed out the Imaginary Jesus in his life wasn't entertaining to me. I struggled with finishing this book until I got to the last five chapters of the book where he actually came in touch with the real Jesus and he described poignant moments where he was with others who knew Jesus at the time Jesus walked the earth, including Jesus' mother and the Apostle John. Those chapters, those descriptions of Jesus were worth the wait to weed through the rest of his journey to find the real Jesus. I think he could have taken less chapters and words to reach those "gems" of the book sooner and held my interest in some of the other chapters that I considered dry.
If someone enjoys reading a comical story with a life impacting ending only displayed in the last fourth of the book, I would recommend this book.
The book also did include a study guide in case one wanted to read the book with a small group from church or even do it as a series in church that included discussion questions.