Book Review: The Making of Us by Sheridan Voysey
When I heard that “The Making of Us” by Sheridan Voysey is a book which explores the experience of life not ending up as we planned, and who we become as a result of this; how life in our forties is often very different from what we expected it to be when we were in our twenties; I knew it was a book I wanted to read. As a young adult, I had many hopes, dreams and plans for my life, yet these were all upended when I became ill with a long-term illness. My life today is very different from the way I had expected it to turn out.
In the introduction to his book Sheridan writes:
"Beautiful things can emerge from life not going as planned. It can even be the making of us.”
Sheridan writes about the pilgrimage he takes with his good friend DJ, following in the footsteps of St. Cuthbert. Together they embark on what is both a physical and spiritual journey.
As Sheridan and DJ go on their journey, Sheridan writes about what they see and the people they interact with on the way. But what was most powerful to me were the conversations between the pair. Their discussions go deep, as they can only do when they are between two people who know each other really well. Oftentimes, conversations only scratch the surface as we are reluctant to reveal who we really are and allow ourselves to be vulnerable. As I read, I felt like I was a silent companion with them on their journey. I loved to listen in on their conversations and learn from them and their experiences.
Sheridan writes about how our broken dreams can shatter our sense of who we are, and how our true identity can only be found in knowing we are children of God. Whether we are known by others or not, each one of us is truly known by God and he sees our significance. He poses the question: Who is the real us? Who we once were, or are now, or the person we will become?
He writes about seeking God’s will, moving forward and trusting God to direct us as we do so.
“it’s easy to stagnate when life goes wrong – to withdraw into the past or hide in one’s room. But there are new paths to tread. New ventures to pursue. Go somewhere new. Walk on.”
Two chapters which particularly spoke to me were chapters four and eight. In chapter four Sheridan considers our calling - how God makes his call known to different people in various ways and how the way ahead can often be confusing.
In chapter eight he writes about learning to stop comparing ourselves with others and accepting our own limitations and weaknesses. It is then in this place that God can break in with his divine grace and power and use for his glory.
The following quote was particularly meaningful to me:
“Service born of suffering. Fruitfulness from lack. Divine life flowing through the cracks. Adversity can release our greatest gifts into the world. Bringing healing. Bringing hope. Birthing life.”
So much of Sheridan's book resonated with me, some of which I’ve already shared in this book review. Something else I could relate to and agree with was when Sheldon said to DJ,
“’I’m starting to wonder if there’s a link between our ordeals and our gifting,’ I add. ‘Something special seems to happen when the two combine.’”
As we get near to the end of the book and Sheridan and DJ reach the end of their pilgrimage, Sheridan shares about his experience of seeing St Cuthbert’s Gospel of John. Sheridan has such a way with words and I love how he relates each one of us with St Cuthbert's incredible handwritten piece of art. He writes this:
“An artwork. An icon. A window to God. A masterpiece of pattern and word. Complex. Priceless. Changing through time. Marked. Unfinished. Flawed. With its intricate design and dramatic story, that book caught my breath. And maybe the reason why went deeper than its beauty. Maybe it echoed something else.
Beautiful, tarnished, incomplete. Made to reveal God, made for eternity. With its winding lines like a pilgrim’s journey, that book is us – all we are and will be.”
Sheridan concludes his book with “The Creed”. In my opinion, it’s another beautifully worded piece of poetry, with scriptural truths entwined throughout. I believe it’s a lovely prayer to pray each morning and one which we can all make our own.
A Discussion Guide or Study Guide is a great addition to a book and, in my opinion, Sheridan’s Reflection Guide at the end of his book is one of the best I’ve come across. The best way to use it is to read a chapter of the book and then work through the corresponding chapter in the Reflection Guide. The Reflection Guide will help you to process what you have read and apply this to your own journey. I think there is also something to be said for two friends reading the book and then coming together to go through the Reflection Guide. You can hold each other accountable and support and encourage each other as you process and reflect on what you've read.
The questions provoke in-depth reflection and the Scripture passages help in bringing God’s truth into your life, which in turn help to bring revelation and lasting change as we apply the truths to life.
Having finished the book and reflected on it, I believe that it’s everything we experience in life – the good, the bad and the ugly – and what we learn as we journey with God through this life, that makes up who we really are and who God wants us to be. It reminded me of how important it is to go on this journey with God at my side. It is when I keep in step with his Holy Spirit and partner with him, that real transformation can happen so that more and more I become the person God made me to be.
Although this book is aimed at those in their mid-thirties/forties, I believe that it is beneficial to anyone, whatever their age may be. Those who are younger have the opportunity to learn from Sheridan’s experiences and insights which will help them to navigate their own journey. Those who are older will still be blessed as it is never too late to learn something new. It is never too late to reflect on where we have been on our own pilgrimage and where we are heading. We will never truly be all we are made by God to be until we see him face to face at the end of our pilgrimage. Every step we take draws us closer to making us more like Jesus.
Sheridan Voysey is a writer, speaker and broadcaster on faith and spirituality.
The author of seven books, including The Making of Us: Who We Can Become When Life Doesn’t Go as Planned (March 2019), Resurrection Year: Turning Broken Dreams into New Beginnings, plus Resilient and the award-winning Unseen Footprints.
He is a presenter of Pause for Thought on BBC Radio 2 and a regular contributor to other media (featured on BBC Breakfast, BBC News, Channel 5, BBC Radio 4, BBC Radio 5 Live, ABC, Moody Radio, and in publications like The Sunday Telegraph, The Daily Mail and Third Way).
He is married to Merryn, walking buddy to a cute canine named Rupert, and he speaks at conferences and events around the world.
Here are some of the ways you can connect with Sheridan: