The Creaking on the Stairs (Book Review)
Mez McConnell's latest book draws from his own story of childhood abuse and the grace of God.
If you like to unwind by reading a good book before going to sleep at night, this is probably not the one to choose.
But if you want to be reminded of the compassion of our God as he intervenes in the lives of men and women, and if you don’t mind being reduced to tears as you do so, this is exactly the book you should read. From cover to cover, interwoven with the stark and heart-breaking reality of the depths of sin and depravity that mankind is capable of (and Mez experienced), you will find a dominant message of God’s gospel of incredible mercy and limitless grace.
Here are seven immediate impressions of the book – I found it to be:
Mez writes with transparent honesty as he recounts his childhood through a series of shocking scenes. Imagine having a member of your immediate family dominating your young life with cruelty of such proportion that you can’t even utter her name, you can only refer to her as ‘she’. Mez starkly reveals, as a young Christian, his heart for justice to be served on her and others: “I pray for them every night. That they would burn in hell forever” (p151).
The events Mez recalls could doubtless have been described far more graphically, but he wisely includes enough detail for the reader to understand each situation without any hint of sensationalism. The layout of 46 short chapters means there is never an ‘overload’ of the more disturbing content and Mez is careful to say to those searching for reasons why God has allowed their suffering: “the book has no easy answers and will offer none” (p48).
The gospel runs right through this book. Mez’s testimony of his conversion is clear as he charts the stages of anger, shame and guilt of victimhood through to its outworking of aggression, violence and prison, until “one day… my thoughts came back to God” (p45).
This is a book about the cause, effect, consequence and judgement of sin that is common to us all: “there is something far worse in this world than the pain of our abuse… than the fear of our earthly tormentors” (p132). And it’s a book about where and how to find the only solution: “I ran headlong into the Bible” (p160).
This is not an autobiography. It’s a book by a pastor who has ‘been there’ and longs for gospel-healing for others with a similar experience. He encourages that by copious use of scripture and through testimony of how God changed his own heart: “my pain drew me to Jesus” (p186).
Mez totally understands that our salvation is the start of a journey of many lessons. For him, first relinquishing the desire for revenge and then grappling with “a duty to God to forgive” (p194) did not come easily or quickly. Those of us who struggle with similar issues, maybe through different experiences, will find much help in the way Mez gently explains the process our compassionate God took him through.
The book starts with an explanation of ‘childhood abuse’. It concludes with helpful interviews with a child abuser and the pastor of a child abuser; FAQs from abuse sufferers, and a response from an abuse sufferer. Perhaps most practical of all is the final section outlining four steps which anyone affected needs to take to reach a point where, in God’s strength, they can ‘celebrate’ because of Jesus.
How can someone who has suffered terrible abuse come to the point of being able to say: “God has used her evil for good” (p24)? Surely only by the Holy Spirit conviction that “My suffering is infinitesimal in light of the cross of Calvary” (p27). This book is about much more than Mez and abuse; primarily it is about the astonishing grace of God found in our Lord Jesus Christ.
I thank God for Mez, and for the work he has done, and continues to do, in him and through him. This book must have been written at huge emotional cost but has the potential for helping many, many people – most obviously those affected in any way by abuse, but also people like me who had the privilege of a childhood that looked nothing like Mez’s but who need to know that childhood abuse continues to be an issue that the Church must be prepared to better understand and minister to.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. (1 Peter 1:3)
The Creaking on the Stairs by Mez McConnell is published by Christian Focus.