Blooming—This Pilgrim’s Progress, Marian den Boer
By Heidi VanderSlikke
Long time Christian Courier readers will remember Marian den Boer’s column, Slice of Bread, from the days when Bert Witvoet was CC editor the first time around. In her energetic, good-natured style, Marian wrote then about the joys and challenges of her life as a Christian wife and mother in Hamilton, Ontario. The fact that I still remember some of her columns a decade later attests to the sincerity and broad appeal of her writing.
Her book, Blooming—This Pilgrim’s Progress, uses some of those earlier columns to provide a more intimate look into the heart of this gregarious pilgrim. But it’s more than a collection of her previous work. With the enhanced vision of hindsight and a deep desire for truthful self-examination, Marian tells us familiar stories with new insights, adding further adventures as well.
She punctuates each vignette with reflections on her personal responsibilities, motives, mistakes and flaws, sometimes with brutal honesty. She includes appropriate scripture verses and contemplates her relationship with God, candidly speculating on what lessons the Holy Spirit might have in mind for her through each of these episodes of daily life. She groups the stories within two sections –Old Testimony and New Testimony.
Marian, you see, has had a profound spiritual experience—a watershed event which launched her headlong into a quest to live the Christian faith wholeheartedly. She poignantly captures the essence of her struggles with self-righteousness, pride and independence in a piece titled Psalm 51 As it Happened to Me. From that point forward Marian determined to live with a finger constantly on her spiritual pulse.
As is often the case, her personal strengths are also her weaknesses. The key for the child of God is to make every thought captive for Christ. In this process Marian’s quirks and shortcomings are easy to relate to. We’ve all been there, if we dare to admit it to ourselves.
Her headstrong attitude and fearless personality often lead to escapades that make a reader laugh out loud. Picture this slender homemaker suddenly face to face with a kitchen full of huge firefighters, all because she got a little overzealous about the possibility of carbon monoxide in the house. Or there was the time when she turned a telemarketer’s call into an opportunity for evangelism. Any parent of teenagers will smile knowingly at Marian’s anecdotes about teaching her daughter to drive, all the while developing a retroactive empathy for her own driving instructor.
Her stories run the spectrum from hilarious to heart-wrenching. For the sake of consistency, all are treated with brevity. Perhaps in the future Marian will revisit some of the deeper issues she raises incidentally. No doubt she has wisdom to share on such matters as dealing with a teenager’s depression, a death in the family, or the trauma of nearly losing a child to drowning in the backyard pool. And I wouldn’t be surprised if she someday writes a more contemplative book about the impact of a charismatic encounter on the life of a born and bred Calvinist.
For now, Marian’s spunky anthology is engaging, amusing and thought provoking. It’s the kind of book you can pick up while waiting for the potatoes to boil, but you probably won’t want to put it down when it’s time to eat supper. The lilies on the cover aptly remind us of God’s ability to work the mundane into something marvelous, and how, in spite of our best efforts, it’s only by his Holy Spirit that we can truly experience the joy of blooming.
den Boer, Marian. Blooming—This Pilgrim’s Progress. Winnipeg: Word Alive Press, 2009.
Available from bookstores everywhere.