It was my middle son who told me that I HAD to read The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt. His older sister, rather than her usual contrarianism, actually joined him in his attempt to convince me. That’s how I knew it must be really good.
But I confess, it took finding out that the author would be the keynote speaker at the next Breathe Conference to actually kick it from my back burner book list to request the audio book from the library app.
I found myself enraptured by the rhythm of the story and the mastery of the reader, Joel Johnstone. Many times I laughed right out loud which made my kids want to know which part I was up to. Gary’s weaving of Shakespeare’s plays through the day to day of Holling Hoodhood’s existence made me (a Shakespeare avoider) want to actually read them.
I know you’re probably busy grabbing the latest book club options from the library or Barnes and Noble or wherever, but don’t forget about Mr. Schmidt’s gems. Yes, they are middle grade and yes, I promise, you really can benefit from them. If you still feel weird, read it aloud to your kids! His books suck you right in and they will enjoy his hilarious view of the world and fun characters.
“A comedy is about characters who dare to choose a happy ending after all.” –Mrs. Baker
Holling Hoodhood has such a unique take on things I wish I could ask him his thoughts on today’s current events.
However, it was his speech “When Gods Die” that caught my heart and wouldn’t let go.
For me, that passage found me around Valentine’s Day 2019. Harvest Bible Chapel had just announced the termination of their senior pastor, James MacDonald. Though I had separated myself from that arena of spiritual abuse more than 16 years ago, there were many people for whom Holling’s speech was the agonizing groan they hadn’t yet been able to put to words.
“When gods die, they die hard. It’s not like they fade away, or grow old, or fall asleep. They die in fire and pain, and when they come out of you, they leave your guts burned. It hurts more than anything you can talk about. And maybe worst of all is, you’re not sure if there will ever be another god to fill their place. Or if you’d ever want another god to fill their place. You don’t want the fire to go out inside you twice.” — Holling Hoodhood from Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt
I was dumbfounded how a middle grade novel could so accurately depict raw grief.
When gods die, we often don’t realize how big they’ve gotten. Blinders are ripped off like festering bandages and with primal rage, you vow to never ever let anyone occupy that place again.
The worst part? These people would never imagine themselves lifting a man high enough to occupy the space only God should. Yet it happened.
These little gods sneak in so quietly that it seems perfectly right and good – but by the time it’s shown its true face, you’ve wound yourself so entirely inside it you actually rip part of yourself off when it disintegrates. And you’re left with a hollow space that feels so empty you’re sure even the God of the universe couldn’t fill it. Yet, He’s waiting to do just that.
My God didn’t die that Valentine’s Day, but I watched and felt the vicarious pain of those whose gods did die – and it made me weep.
It also forced me to slow and take note.
- What am I choosing to place in the one spot made for my Creator?
- Is it a political person, idea or a church or a way of life or anything that changes what God actually says or abuses power?
- How do I untangle and separate myself from this – yet loving those still blinded?
With this year’s round of leaders and pastors dying in fire and pain as Holling mentioned, those they served are choosing more and more to reject church completely. Praise God, the Church is more than bumbling sinful men, but it is a very long road to trust any church or leader after that moment.
Love those hurting. Pray and weep with them. Save the “I told you so” for later – or better yet – never. Be angry that they are hurting yet love God and His people more than ever.
It’s amazing what a little middle grade novel can do.
Photo by David Pennington on Unsplash
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