Rachel just got hit with a triple whammy: her fiance is cheating on her, her parents have been keeping a big (BAD) secret from her, and her best friend and Christian mentor has a drug problem. So, Rachel goes off the rails, leaves her faith, and moves to Chicago.
To my discredit, I am normally impatient with characters and even real people who “lose their faith.” Like what, you misplaced your lifelong, deep-seated commitment to the God of the Universe who was so committed to his love for you that he became a man and died for you, kind of like you sometimes misplace your car keys? Did you spend any time looking for that “faith” you so conveniently mislaid? Did you ask any questions? Pray? Wrestle with God like Jacob did?
I know, I know. I’m unsympathetic. I blame it partly on the terminology. One doesn’t really lose faith. You decide, for whatever reason, to leave it behind, to repudiate it. And in Alison Strobel’s Reinventing Rachel, the title character does exactly that: her faith wasn’t working out the way she thought it should, so she leaves it behind to try out a new, God-free life of pleasing herself and avoiding annoying Christians. God didn’t keep his end of the bargain that Rachel thought she made with Him: she’d behave, and He would make everything work out right. Instead, Rachel decides she’ll have to work out her own life without God’s help or intervention.
At first, after Rachel moves to Chicago to live with her old friend Daphne, things do work out pretty well, without church and without God. Daphne is a free spirit and lots of fun. Rachel finds a job right away. And she even gets a new boyfriend who’s handsome, attentive, and willing to take it slow and easy. However, when you leave one idol, Christian legalism and bargain mentality, behind, you’re likely to pick up another idol before long because we human beings were made to worship someone or something. Rachel finds comfort and sustenance in some not-so-unusual places, and then she finds that the idols she’s chosen are just as fallible and entrapping as the “Christianity” she left behind. By God’s grace, she also meets few people who show her what true commitment to Christ really looks like.
So, the conclusion is that Rachel didn’t really lose her faith in Christ; she never had faith in Christ’s grace in the first place. She was trusting in her Christian checklist to keep her on God’s good side, and when life came at her with a whole lot of hard stuff, Rachel’s make-a-list of rules didn’t begin to answer the questions or provide the strength she needed.
Ms. Strobel is a good writer, particularly in the area of character development. I wouldn’t mind checking out others of her novels, which I suppose is the reason I managed to snag a free copy of Reinventing Rachel for my Kindle when it was being offered as a “special deal.” It’s full price now, but I recommend it as worth the money or the time it takes to hunt down a library copy. (I’m not a fan of the half-a-face picture on the cover, but ignore that and read the story.)