Rosaria Butterfield writes of this book in her commendation that this is “the most disturbing book that I have ever read. I cannot recommend it highly enough“. While I might disagree with her first sentence, the second is one I thoroughly endorse. Mez McConnell has done a marvellous service to the church in writing The Creaking on the Stairs: Finding Faith Through Childhood Abuse. Christian Focus kindly provided me with a review copy of the book, but I hope that doesn’t shade my review too much.
There are two things that make this book so good. Firstly, Mez is honest. He shares – in what must be painful detail – the extent of the abuse he suffered from as a child and the effects that it has had on him and his family. That said, this isn’t not horror fiction or so-called ‘poverty-porn’ – Mez writes in a calm, honest way that demonstrates the evil that happened, without making that the main focus of the book. This is a difficult tension – on the one hand it is important to shine a light fully on evil, on the other we do not want to put a spotlight on it. I think Mez navigates this well.
The second thing that makes this book so good in my opinion is Mez’s unflinching and deep faith. This is not an easy book to read – but in amongst the evil there are clear signs of light. This is a book written by a man clearly enamoured with Jesus, deeply marinated in the Scriptures, and excited about God and His kingdom. One of the short chapters begins like this, echoing the honesty of the book:
“The more I understand about how God works in the world, the more I understand that He uses whomever He likes, however He likes, whenever He likes. If God wants to use unbelievers to fulfil His plans for the world, then He will, and He does. Some of the people God has used greatly throughout history have been total idiots. Noah used to get off his nut on wine. Moses was a killer with no faith, and a bad stutter. Rahab was a prostitute. Jonah was a bottle merchant. Matthew was a scumbag loan shark. The Apostle Paul was a stone-cold killer.“
Mez’s trust in this God, and his acknowledgement of bewilderment, is inspiring. It is the skeleton of this book – that, despite the evidence in front of our eyes, God is up to something. This makes The Creaking on the Stairs more than just a very good book about childhood abuse. This is a superb piece of biblical ‘practical’ theology – taking the impossible question of pain and suffering in the life of children and meeting it head on with scripture, honesty, and challenge. This, along with the short, punchy chapters, makes this book a painful pleasure to read.
I recommend this book warmly – with the caveat that it is quite harrowing. For pastors and those seeking to care for victims, this book is essential. For anyone wondering about the problem of evil, this book is not about that but has something very profound to say. This book is not an easy read, but it is important, well written, and deeply thoughtful. Thanks, Mez, for sharing your story and not staying in it.
Practically speaking, it is worth noting that there are a series appendices at the back of the book which make this a really useful tool:
- ‘Worshipping with the Enemy?’ – Interview with a child abuser (this is hard to read, and I hadn’t been abused)
- Interview with the Pastor of a Child Abuser (what does it look like to include an abuser in church?)
- FAQ’s from Child Abuse Sufferers
- A Response to this book from an Abuse Sufferer
These four appendices are powerful and important bits of writing in their own right, and add to the value of this book to pastors and readers.
For some of the issues around, or related to the topics in this book, you may want to check out the following resources:
- Escaping the Maze of Spiritual Abuse – a book that does what it says on the tin.
- Rid of My Disgrace – a book about specifically sexual abuse.
- Looking Shame in the Eye – a book that touches on some of the big issues in these conversations.
- On domestic violence, Natalie Collins Out of Control. I interviewed Natalie about the book when it launched.