If you’re at all familiar with the I Am Second campaign, the recently released book by the same name holds few surprises. However, the stories told within its pages evidence the transformational power of a severely merciful God. They are written testimonies for a digital age, as seen by the inclusion of QR codes at the end of each chapter linking to their respective I Am Second videos online. I Am Second shares 20 stories of life-change as well as suggested videos of other “seconds” at the end of each chapter.
The brainchild of Norm Miller, Chairman of Interstate Batteries, the I Am Second phenomenon asked notable and ordinary Christians alike to share their story of removing themselves from being first in their lives in order to become second to God. Sports stars like Josh Hamilton and Sam Bradford share their stories. Bethany Hamilton, the inspiration for the movie Soul Surfer, shares her incredible story. Jeff and Cheryl Scruggs share an astounding story of a marriage torn apart by an affair, only to be later restored. Stories about drug abuse, alcoholism, absent fathers, depression, infidelity, porn, shark attacks, and disease flow through the book as the dark undercurrent those issues are in real life.
Like their ubiquitous online videos or highway billboards, the bare-bones, black-and-white aesthetic of these visuals translates into stark, concise prose. This makes the bookaccessible to a wide audience and easily digestible in a single sitting, but it also diminishes emotionally-charged stories to a few scant pages. Some people may appreciate such a quick inspirational pick-me-up, but others may want to delve deeper into the story.
Don’t get me wrong. The work of the I Am Second campaign has likely encouraged millions of people. In fact, the second chapter relates how Daniel Montenegro saw an I Am Second billboard featuring Brian “Head” Welch, former guitarist for KORN, as well as the subject of the first chapter. Daniel points to that billboard as a literal sign from God that he needed to ditch the drugs and get right with God.
Like their online video counterparts, the chapters in I am Second are short, resulting in a rather simplistic re-telling of a person’s transformation. However, Josh Hamilton’s recent relapse is a reminder that these stories are all on-going. If you’ve been a Christian long enough, you may think that all testimonies have a simple three-part structure:
But, we all know that life isn’t so black-and-white, and that shades of gray exist in the reality beyond a book’s page or an online video.
While their stories may be immortalized in print or online, their lives of faith and struggle continue—yet it is in the strength of confessing their past hurts, crimes, sins, and regrets that those profiled in I Am Second allow their past to be constantly and continually redeemed. Does Josh Hamilton look at his I Am Second video with regret, or with hope, as a reminder of the God who’s brought him so far and is faithful to continue the good work he’s already begun?
Through the technological miracles of the postmodern age, the stories of the “seconds” get told over and over and over again, waiting for another Daniel Montenegro to look up while driving, to click on a forwarded YouTube link, or to simply read a book, its letters in black on a stark white page, so that he too can learn what it means to be second in life.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through theBookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”