Review: The Winding Path of Transformation

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The Winding Path of TransformationJeffrey Tacklind, Foreword by Cathleen Falsani. Downers Grove: IVP/Formatio, 2019.

Summary: The author proposes that spiritual growth means walking in paradoxical tensions of glory and humility lived out in a winding journey toward the transformation of our character and spiritual freedom.

Jeffrey Tacklind proposes that the path to spiritual transformation is lived in a middle place between glory and humility, and similar tensions or paradoxes. In truth, we often find ourselves in that tension, at once longing for greatness, while conscious that we are finite and fallen creatures. We are “glorious ruins” in the words of Francis Schaeffer.

Tacklind traces this journey for us, using incidents in his own journey to illustrate this journey, one that is not arrow straight but winding. He describes an encounter with an alder tree in a dry stream bed, with roots that grow deep to draw any bit of water and branches flexible to bend with wind and flood. To be rooted without being rigid is indeed to live in a middle place. He describes vocational tensions of ambition and rejection and hearing God just say “do this” as he engages a visitor to his congregation in a coffee shop, one who was spiritually seeking and asking questions.

He walks us through the winding trail of life’s different seasons of birth, death and resurrection. He urges us to face desolation to find joy, to wait in a pressured, distracted world, to face our longings to belong and the pain of choosing to stand between opposing sides without belonging to either (naming a pain I have often felt).  He invites us into a path of living in the questions rather than grasping for certitude.

The path to transformation is a slow path as it wanders toward wholeness. There is the struggle to discover who “me” is, drawn as we are by “shoulds” and comparisons. Sometimes, it is small prayers and consequent obedient faith that discovers God in the small things like finding a son’s lost report card award card. It is learning that it is in our brokenness that the work of the cross manifests in our lives.

A fly-fishing episode illustrates another part of the path. God has his own ways in our joy grief, our glory and humility. Pulling fish out of the river is more than just a good cast and setting the hook. It is yielding to the wisdom of the river, the wisdom river guides learn in studying the river for where the fish are. It is a wisdom that ceases striving and yields. God leads us out and leads us back, again and again in life.

One has the sense of listening to someone whose life is very much a “work in progress” and his refreshing candor helps us relax into the possibility that life and spiritual progress are like that for all of us, and that’s OK. This is not a book of prescriptions for a fulfilling spiritual life, but an account from one pilgrim to others of what the journey is like and insights into the way God meets us in the tensions and contradictions and perplexities of our lives. You may have reached the point in your journey where all the “answers” of how the Christian life works don’t seem to quite fit your own winding path.  This work might better help you understand the true nature of the journey on which you’ve embarked, while encouraging you with a hope that may be even richer than you thought.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher. The opinions I have expressed are my own.