book review: the watermark, travis thrasher

"It's one of those subtle marks on stationery that you can't see unless you hold it up to the light. For some reason, I think of that word when I think of you. For so long, you've been running from the light, Sheridan. But now your life has been held up to the light. And the mark that's always been there is now obvious to all who know you.

"No matter what you've done, what mistakes you've made, what you can't go back and change, you still belong to Jesus.... He's marked you for life."
THE WATERMARK is a beautiful story of second chances set in suburban Chicago. Perhaps that's just one reason why it hit such a chord in my heart. Those of you who know me well will remember we spent one year in the windy city, working in a Christian school and helping with the church's youth group. We don't talk about it much. It's not that we didn't love the ministry. And even though the year was marked with heartaches for the church and school, I think it's mostly that we left when we did. The story of John Mark, the one who separated from Paul but was later counted useful to him again, is just one of the biblical examples that's been an encouragement as we seek to serve our Lord faithfully again. See, God's story offers not just second chances, but chance after chance after chance. And it's not a night & day, wrong turns right in a flash (except in the reality of  God declaring us righteous at salvation). So often we wander, even after salvation. I think of a dear friend who at one time was so thrilled to have been saved and then later became convinced that he was a homosexual and couldn't understand why God had made him that way. Some would say he was never saved. Really? I tend to believe he's so far from the light, the watermark's not visible. The best thing we can do is love him and invite him back into the light. But this is supposed to be a book review, so I'll get on with the book.

I literally started THE WATERMARK after supper and finished it before midnight. The basic idea of this novella by Travis Thrasher is that God's mark on a believer may not be obvious when that person has turned from God and gotten himself entangled in the darkness of sin, but as that person is again exposed to the light, the watermark of salvation is obvious.

Told in the first person POV of Sheridan, Thrasher does a phenomenal job of maintaining that POV through three major story parts: "an undeniable past," "an uncertain present," and "an unexpected future." Sheridan's is a voice easy to listen to, convincing and honest.

When Sheridan decides to go back to Covenant College after a seven-year cessation, he's not deciding to turn his life back over to God, just hoping to finish something he started a long time ago. There's been so much pain and guilt in the mean time, and there's still not a whole lot of hopefulness. 

But through a newly developing friendship with a girl aptly named Genevie, Sheridan begins to rediscover his relationship with God.

"Show, don't tell," is one of those writing rules that you hear repeatedly, and it's one that Thrasher demonstrates with this novel, often even when you wish he'd just tell you what or why. But because he withholds the information so well, I'm not going to mess up his story and tell you now. You're going to have to read his book. Don't worry, you'll be glad you did.

The cover identifies THE WATERMARK as "a tender story of forgiveness and hope." And even though (for whatever reason) the dust jacket is lavender, it's not just for girls.

I definitely see potential for THE WATERMARK to be used in outreach ministries and with those who either grew up in a Christian home or went to a Christian college but have turned away from the God they once loved. The gospel is clear yet gentle, cushioned in a well-crafted story with believable characters and on-going struggles.

There are a few things that date the book, such as references to cassette tapes, yet those are so easily overlooked and the story itself is timeless. This is how God works: then, now, past, present, and future.

I picked my copy up from our public library, so it's available. But I'm guessing I'll be buying more than one copy to loan or give out. And I'll conclude by quoting Francine Rivers, "I loved THE WATERMARK. It is a moving story about redemption and love that delivers a punch to the heart at the end."

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