Servants of grace
Jill MacSweeney believes that life has dealt her a bad hand.
Her beloved father’s unexpected death has left her with a mother who cares, but who just doesn’t get her. Worse, Mom’s caught up in a hair-brained scheme to replace Dad—at least, that’s how Jill sees it. Adopt a baby? From an unwed teenage mother? An unwed teenage mother who’s going to live with them during the last few months of her pregnancy?
Jill’s convinced that her mother:
a) has lost her mind,
b) is out to make Jill’s life even more miserable than it already is, or
On the surface, How to Save a Life spends a fair amount of time wallowing in teenage unpleasantness. Jill is a lot of sharp edges and emotional angst. Mandy, the pregnant interloper, is awkward, immature, and the keeper of some pretty damaging secrets from her past.
But just like the baby Mandy is about to bring into the world, each of these characters is going through her own process of growth and development. Though sometimes the change seems almost imperceptible, as each teen turns outward—reaching beyond herself to care for, understand, even save the other—the real transformation takes place.
In a landscape of books for teenagers that’s populated largely by me-centric messages, How to Save a Life offers an entirely different model. It embraces grace: the grace that compels us to rescue those we understand—and even those we don’t. The grace that, when activated in our hearts, also rescues us.
Mary Baker Eddy encapsulated the message of this book beautifully when she penned, “A little more grace, a motive made pure, a few truths tenderly told, a heart softened, a character subdued, a life consecrated, would restore the right action of the mental mechanism, and make manifest the movement of body and soul in accord with God.” 1
The not-so-typical happy ending to this story develops as each character becomes a servant of grace—is softened and subdued. It emerges as she allows herself to come into line with the generous God who loves us enough to turn us back toward a life that’s focused on blessing and caring for others.
Of course, that’s not exactly the way How to Save a Life puts it. But my own experiences with prayer-based character transformation not only made me root for Jill and Mandy’s salvation; they made me expect it—and believe in it.
By Jenny Sawyer
- 1 Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896, p. 354. ↩
Topics: Interfaith | Tags: adoption, film review, grace, pregnancy