Review: Metanoia

A Memoir of a body, born again, by Anna McGahan, Bible Society Australia, 2019

Anna McGahan’s book, Metanoia, is a gift to Australia and the Australian church.

The first recorded words of Jesus’ ministry included the command to ‘turn’, ‘change’ or ‘repent’. The Greek noun for this is ‘metanoia’. In her book, Anna tells of her own metanioa – a transformative change of heart. Her story is raw, engaging, exciting, true and above all, real.

Anna tells us how she arrived at “the safest place” and “the most dangerous place” she has ever been. She tells not only of the pain of sickness, loneliness, alienation, relationship breakdowns, missteps and of the right and wrong choices in her life, but also of her story of commitment, empathy, love, and her yearning for, and finding, ‘something more’.

Anna tells of how she eventually heard and responded to the Spirit’s gentle call. Anna learned to trust Jesus, and was, like all of us, loved into the discovery of the peace, joy and hope for which she was made.

Metanoia is an important book for the Australian church. Anna’s background is, like all Australians born since 1990, radically secular. For Australian young people who have rejected all things “Christian”, Anna’s book speaks poetically of her response to God’s gracious call. She tells of an exciting and wonderful journey of healing to find her true home in God’s love. It is a message that young Australians are desperate to hear.

Anna’s first person experience of anorexia is sensitively written and worth reading for any parent, carer or adolescent caught in an irrational cycle of mental illness. Secular and religious models of analysis and treatment for such ‘suffering’ can, and do, bring relief (as they did for Anna), but Anna’s experience is important because these models cannot bring the wholeness of healing.

Jesus’ call for metanoia is present in every age, but because culture shifts, the meaning of metanoia will change with our culture. The institutional church is slow to change, so we must urgently look to people like Anna and her contemporaries to discern what the Spirit is saying to the church.

Anna openly and honestly discusses her bisexuality and reflects on her personal experience and attitudes. Anna’s reflections will help ground our attitudes and words in the reality that, when we speaking about or with LGBTQI people, we are speak about persons created in God’s image and born to reflect God’s glory.

Anna has some wonderful stories to show the blessedness of life when we learn to listen to the Spirit and give as we have been given to. Australians need Australian stories like this. Anna’s example encourages us all to discover and take our own journey of change with Jesus.

Take your own journey to your unique “safest place” and “most dangerous place”, where God is waiting to welcome you.

Rodney Marsh

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