The Encounter, by Stephen Arterburn, is a parable reflecting hope and forgiveness that can come through the power of Christ. Jonathon Rush is a wealthy entrepreneur who was abandoned when he was only four years old. He was adopted at age 9, and went on to become the famous person that he is today--rich in money and poor in joy. He is filled with bitterness. Spurned by his pastor, he returns to Fairbanks, Alaska, to locate his mother and learn to forgive.
Stephen Arterburn is a counselor, speaker, and author. He has written over 100 books mainly aimed at bringing healing and spiritual growth. In this book, he takes a different approach to teach through story-telling. The reader is encouraged to look at their own story--even painful ones--from a different perspective, and move towards forgiveness and reconciliation.
I love the idea behind the book more than I like the book itself. First of all, fiction is, in general, very easy to read. Where it may take me 3 weeks to read a non-fiction book, I topped this one off in just a few hours. While a non-fiction read may be more direct and offer practical application, story-telling can reach a different part of my heart and motivate me in a much different way.
This story, however, fell short of the mark. As I have had time to reflect, I have become more and more unsettled with the attempt. The characters in the story are a little too shallow. The back of the book sounds more interesting than the book itself ends up being. It didn't go deep enough and left me unsatisfied. It really rubbed on me that the main character is some well-known entrepreneur ranking close to Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. It robbed the story of credibility (trying to get my mind to believe the fiction was not even possible). But perhaps the biggest criticism I have of all is that I don't feel the Gospel was presented clearly enough throughout the pages. How do we experience forgiveness without really touching the cross? Perhaps the main character, Jonathon Rush, just wasn't there in his walk yet. But why not? Why couldn't it have been written that way? I hate to sound like a broken record here, but a watered-down version of the Gospel is no gospel at all. In contrast, the end of the story is not the end of the book. Mr. Arterburn goes on to write a fantastic application section, including discussion questions. This was a nice touch and I hadn't expected it.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson book publishers as part of their blogger program called BookSneeze. My thoughts and opinions are my own.