Of Men and Mary by Christine Watkins

Of Men and Mary by Christine Watkins
Publisher: Queen of Peace Media
Genre: Contemporary, Inspirational, Non-Fiction
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Powerful in the spirit, OF MEN AND MARY also delivers tasty doses of pure entertainment. You will find yourself inspired by a murderer, a sweet lamb who lost it all, and a man who literally died—and then came back to life. You will suddenly root for a football player tackled by the Blessed Mother, a man caught up in illicit sexual liaisons, and a man whose marriage was as good as dead.

While OF MEN AND MARY may be about six males, it is for everyone, because it is also a book about a woman. In the heat of the fiercest of spiritual battles, when all seemed lost and these men were left with nothing to stand on but stormy seas, they were given a lifeboat. That lifeboat—that woman—is the Blessed Virgin Mary. She is the boat of safety for all of us, the surest and safest passage to the heart of her Son. She is our victory and sweet reassurance that God’s plan is infinitely better than our own; and she is our challenge to follow her Son, no matter the cost, no matter how fierce the battle. Read the stories of these brave men, and you will inevitably come away with a desire to climb in the boat with them and sail safely home.

One day, I listened to a guy on a YouTube video talk about his life and I was intrigued. He was overwhelmed by life’s challenges, and a little messed up but somehow turned his life around. Then I found this book, Of Men and Mary: How Six Men Won the Greatest Battle of Their Lives and realized that the very guy I watched in the video was one of those six men whose lives were affected and changed by discovering their faith. I guess this book touched me at a deeper level because I wasn’t reading about a faceless, unknown person with only a name. I had heard his voice, saw his facial expressions, and could confer that experience to the words I read. The other five men in the novel became a bit more ‘alive’ to me because I could trust that their stories were real, that they were real. Reading this novel was an enlightening experience, in a good way, because it also encourages hope.

Initially, I expected a dry experience because I was reading about how religion changed these men’s lives. There is nothing dry or boring or uninteresting when you ‘meet’ a man who was a murderer, another who actually died, or a guy who was prone to infidelity and one who lived a lifestyle full of mistakes and kept making them, over and over, and over again. I think his story was the hardest to read and yet the most inspirational because it illustrated what I’ve heard; that God is a loving, forgiving God who only wants the best for us, and to bring us home to him when we die. But, and it’s a big ‘but’, we have to be heading that way in our lives while we are around to use our free will to make the right choices. All six men were not making the right choices and this book is about what happened, what changed them, and what it looks like after they’ve made the changes.

Like I mentioned, there was one man’s story that I found hard to read because he was given so many chances, even some amazing interventions, and he STILL reverted to his old mistakes. I wanted to shake him. How can he experience something that proved that there is a God, that He loved him and answered his prayers, and yet go backwards? His story showed me a few things, namely that God really is a forgiving God, he doesn’t give up on us, even when we purposely or accidentally screw up, we’re given chance after chance to repent and return onto the right path. The act of loving someone is exactly that, an action, a doing. And that loving action is expressed in each of the six men.

The story of the man who would be a famous football player amused me and wowed me at the same time. Boy, did he test God. Every time he said, “If you do this, only then will I do …”, except he kept moving the goalpost – numerous times. I’m thinking, ‘Uh-oh, he’s going to push God too far; that’s really poking the bear!” Except how it all resolved took me by surprise. It was like reading a convoluted mystery book – nothing seems to make sense or go in the direction you think it’s going to go, then, Boom! – the big reveal. I enjoyed his story the most.

Of Men and Mary earns the tag of inspirational. It’s also entertaining, thought-provoking, immensely interesting, and it gives one hope. No matter how bad a person thinks their sins might be, God’s healing love will help overcome and conquer that taint – but it comes with a price. You must love God back. I’m not talking about feeling like you love Him, but actionably demonstrating that love in your life in all aspects. Sounds hard, right? The six guys in this book sure felt that way … until they didn’t. That’s the mind-blowing part. When you’re happy, it’s not so much a hardship anymore, because you’re doing it out of love. And because these stories are about real people who overcame incredible odds, some more dire than others, it inspires me to never give up, and to keep moving forward because the ultimate goal is worth it.

I’m super glad I discovered this book. All because I watched a video. See? You never know where inspiration is going to come from.

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