Michael “Bull” Roberts experienced overwhelming trauma and abuse as a child and a teen. As an adult, he dealt a lot of pain to those who crossed him. His purpose in this autobiography is neither to portray himself as a victim nor to glorify his successes as a crime lord. It’s to show how a loving God finally brought him to faith.
Michael tells his story in a conversational tone as if over coffee or in an interview. He avoids graphic detail and leaves much unsaid.
The Tender Heart of a Beast is a slim book, under 200 pages. The first half tells Michael’s story. The second is a collection of his unedited articles from Beyond the Walls prison newsletter, offering a window into his heart and to the challenges of a new Christian. There are also a handful of photographs, and it’s easy to see the difference in Michael’s eyes now that he belongs to Jesus.
What’s troubling about the book is that it’s non-fiction. It really happened, and this once-sensitive and fragile young boy endured so much from people who should have valued and nurtured him.
Reading how God drew Michael long before his conversion can encourage us to persevere with the hurting and angry people in our own lives.
The book is also a cry for Christians and churches to reach out to the outcasts—and to welcome a man who still looks dangerous but who is now uniquely equipped to share the Gospel with people who’d never listen to a preacher in a suit:
“How does a smelly, greasy biker or homeless person become a well-dressed, well-groomed example of the love of God? Well that’s easy. It’s up to you to love him, clothe him, mentor him and help him to the cross every time he falls until he becomes the man God has planned for him to become.” (p. 168)
I think I hear Jesus saying the same.
The Tender Heart of a Beast won a 2010 Canadian Christian Writing Award in the Books: General Readership category and an honourable mention in Books: Culture.
Copies are available from the author. For those who just want to hear Michael’s story, DVD copies of his testimony are also available. To order books or DVDs, please use this link to email the author.
Here’s a brief interview with Michael Bull Roberts
[Review copy from my personal library]