Posted by: watchman | April 23, 2009

BookBlog: Exquisite Agony part 1

I am half way through Gene Edward’s Exquisite Agony. I thought I would share a few thoughts at this point.

First of all, this book is a spiritual reflection. Botolff and I have discussed Anne Jackson’s Mad Church Disease quite a bit on here and Exquisite Agony is very very different. Jackson’s book is very practical and deals with hands on steps to deal with and avoid burnout. Edwards book is more a reflection on dealing with hurt after the fact in a spiritual way.

The book is difficult right off the bat becasue of some of the harsh things he points out. Don’t get me wrong, it is a very readable, short book, written in a dialogue format. But thecontent is challenging and difficult, provocative to the extreme. The subject matter is crucifixion.

Edwards boldly claims that crucifixions (Christ’s and all others) have a reason and a reponsibility.

  • The reason is destruction.
  • The responsible person is God.

Like I said, challenging stuff.

So, a person who has been crucified (even if they have been crucified by Christians), has a choice on they respond to the claims above. We can choose to respond by blaming people, with all the bitterness and anger that goes along with it. Or a person can respond by putting the blame where it belongs: God.

Also, we can choose how to respond to the reason for our crucifixion. In this world there is so much random hurt and harm and it is all seemingly so arbitrary and insane. But, Edwards claims that God (the crucifixion instigator) has a purpose and a reason for all this fratricide and pain. Edwards says that just like Christ’s crucifixion, ours was planned for a purpose – to destroy and purify us. It was to present us before heaven and earth emptied of all but our scarred goodness.

There were parts to this dialogue that I could hardly stomach. How awful it was to think of my crucifixion in such a cruel way, with such an immovable perpetrator.

However, there is also something remarkably hopeful and redemptive knowing that there could be a purpose behind all the pain. Edwards is now starting to encourage the wounded to act like the theif on the cross and look to the source of the pain and the redemption. “Lord, remember me…”



  1. Now that’s a unique take on things. I like the call to God to be remembered. I think it can be very valuable for us to look for rest in God’s memory, especially in light of the horrors we commit against each other. But the repetative planned crucifixions are out of reach of what I want to hold on to right now. Does that mean Christ’s crucifixion was an example of what we all must endure, and not what we will endure? That makes me feel like Christ’s sacrifice wasn’t enough. That we must crucify each other over and over again in order to receive what God wants from us. Seems masochistic to me and not very kind. Why would I ask a God who punishes me in order to get something out of me to then remember me and let me into his kingdom? Sounds like the cycle of abuse we are trying to fight against.

    It will be interesting to see what else comes from the book. Thanks for the “Corey Notes” on Exquisite Agony.

  2. I’m with you, Jamie. This is really tough stuff.

    I hate to make it sounds like the author is being masochistic here. He presents crucifixion as an inevitability that God uses as a crucible for us. The crucible destroys the ugly stuff within us, but it does not do it until after the deed is complete. After crucifixion, we can remain on the cross (bitterness, hatred, anger, etc) or we can choose Resurrection.

    On e of the things about this book that is bothersome is that Edwards is completely disinterested in proving anything. He does not quote a lot of scripture, nor does he try to logically explain his reasoning. It is an, in the moment conversation of sorts. There are no footnotes or references to authoritative texts. It is just one man reflecting on the reality of crucifixion.

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