Book Review of Undone: A Story of Making Peace With an Unexpected Life
God will never give you more than you can handle.
That’s one of the most frequently misquoted lines of Scripture. It’s not in the Bible, and it’s not true.
In fact, God frequently gives us more than we can handle. Sometimes it’s the only way to get his messages across:
- You’re doing it wrong
- You cannot do it alone
- You need me
In her new book Undone: A Story of Making Peace With an Unexpected Life, author and speaker Michele Cushatt gives a moving testimony about her struggles with God’s direction for her life.
The book is about making peace–in Michele’s case, with a cancer diagnosis and the decision to adopt three special-needs children during a time when her family had special needs of its own.
Unwanted and unchosen, the sudden and rapid multiplication of cells inside her body marked the beginning of a new era. It was an era of questions and sadness and pain. Michele had lived a life in service to the Christian faith, treating her body as temple, giving cancer no earthly reason to invade and profane the sacred vessel tirelessly used to glorify his name.
But still, it came.
In a moment, cancer rewrote my life as a worst-case scenario. . . At six o’clock I woke up to a life I loved. By eight thirty it was gone.1
I just felt confused. Hadn’t I done everything right?2
Cancer is a thief, stealing what we didn’t even know we had until it was too late. The innocence is gone, replaced by an acute awareness of the dark flip side of life.3
Michele brings you into her world to share her pain, her confusion, and the frustration of living a life without answers and honoring a God whose ways are not our ways. Cancer forced her to wrestle with previously unexamined attitudes and behaviors. She realized that a parent is not responsible for a child’s decision to stray, and she realized that other cancers undetectable by PET scans can secretly eat us to death.
You’re so worried about this cancer, Michele. Consumed over whether it will eat away your life. But you have a cancer far worse in your heart. . . . Unforgiveness. You need to let it go.4
But after the fear, she would find peace again. It was the peace already at work in her heart, but the peace we need to be reminded about from time to time. It was the peace of God and knowing that he has promised us a good ending. When her mind was consumed with the future and uncertainty and death, her husband conceived the idea that would give birth to new hope.
‘If you really believe what you say you believe, Michele, then it’s only going to get better from here.’5
His words reminded her:
Flimsy belief gives birth to fear, not courage.6
And the word of God comforted her:
‘Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?’7 (NIV, Luke 12:25).
Those who have faith, deep-abiding faith in an Artist who has all things under his control, have no need to rehash the past or predict the future.8
Michele brilliantly reveals what most of us will infrequently acknowledge and seldom admit: the gift of life, as wonderful as it is, is not God’s greatest gift to us.
Somewhere in my thirty-nine years, my love affair with this life had eclipsed my anticipation of the next. Living had become my idol, more the object of my worship than the Lifegiver himself.9
Wanted and chosen, the sudden and rapid multiplication of children in her home came at what was supposed to be the end of an era. Michele had already raised children and released them into the world. The nest was supposed to be empty.
But God led them to fill it again. The second half of Michele’s book shows the reader what it feels like to be an adoptive parent, times three! It’s about taking a leap of faith and listening to the voice of God when it becomes louder than your own. It’s about what she learned along the way, things like:
We’re far more enduring with our valuables than with the people we claim to value.10
and. . .
Peace isn’t a byproduct of control, the payout of a happy conclusion. Peace is the infiltrating, life-giving presence of a very real God. One who loves nothing more than to step into the middle of locked and darkened rooms and impossible circumstances, close enough to touch.11
Her story of adopting three special-needs children brings the reader the place where we all must go. It’s where we realize that the superficial– the facade, the appearance, the idea of perfect and clean and complete–has no place in the mind of those who understand that people are always more important than things. It’s where we finally see our quest for perfection as the handicap it is, how filthy we become in our efforts to make things clean.
It took me half a lifetime to learn this lesson, to see my need for presence over perfection.12
Michele’s story is one of many in a movement of authenticity and transparency. More and more models are choosing to reveal unaltered photos of their bodies. Michele offers an unaltered look into her soul.
Authenticity ministers far more than put-togetherness. And vulnerability builds a far stronger bond than perfection. . . . Ministry–of the truest kind–isn’t about impressing unknown strangers with spotless presentation and a flawless life. It’s about exposing the hidden imperfections and giving others permission to do the same. Becoming a fellow struggler who delivers zero judgment but abundant grace.13
And for the mother tired of the thoughtless under-appreciation, she re-affirms what most mothers already know, but can’t bear to shout back at those who can’t understand: sometimes the most important job in the world is waiting for you at home.
Only later would we see the irony of taking a mission trip when the most pressing mission waited for us back at home.14
God wasn’t asking me to go. He was asking me to stay.15
If you think you have it together, you need to read Undone.
If you think your life is clean, you need to read Undone.
If you think you’re done, get ready for the Un.
God is going to rock your world. Undone will help you get ready for the ride.
1 Michele Cushatt, Undone: A Story of Making Peace With an Unexpected Life (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2015), 12-13.
2 Ibid., 56.
3 Ibid., 69.
4 Ibid., 40.
5 Ibid., 70.
7 Ibid., 92.
8 Ibid., 157.
9 Ibid., 71.
11 Ibid., 57.
Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I believe will add value to my readers or will assist them in establishing a coherent worldview. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
About Jason B. Ladd
Jason is an author, speaker, Marine, and father of seven. He has flown the F/A-18 Hornet as a Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1 (MAWTS-1) Instructor Pilot and the F-16 as an Instructor Pilot. His award-winning book One of the Few: A Marine Fighter Pilot’s Reconnaissance of the Christian Worldview has been optioned for film adaptation. He is represented by Julie Gwinn of The Seymour Agency.