It’s release week for O Me of Little Faith. I hope you haven’t gotten tired of my constant book-promoting over the last couple of week — it can be indelicate, but it’s sort of my job. Occasionally I need to hijack the public service ethos of blogging in order to convince you to buy my book.
And, apparently, I see my blogging as a “public service,” so what kind of raging egomaniac am I? Good gravy. Stop typing, Jason.
Anyway, today I’m publishing the first few paragraphs of O Me of Little Faith, right here on the blog. But I’m going to do so with my own personal commentary inserted between paragraphs. It’s like the director’s commentary on a DVD, but way more distracting.
This might be a horrible experiment, but I’m knee-deep in it now so here goes. The actual words of the book are in italics.
I am a Christian. I have been a Christian for most of my life. But there are times—a growing number of times, to be honest—when I’m not entirely sure I believe in God.
There. I said it.
>>>What I’m trying to do here is hook you from the beginning with a startling revelation. I want you to read this at Barnes & Noble, then show it to your buddy, and say “Dude, this Christian guy totally just said he didn’t believe in God! Astounding! We must buy bulk quantities of this book for all of our friends, like we did with The Shack!”
So now you know, and we can both relax and talk about it. Confessing the presence of spiritual uncertainty in my life is a relief. I can breathe easier now because I don’t have to pretend. I don’t have to hide my conflicted feelings when we talk about Jesus and the Bible. I don’t have to feel like a jerk if you, or anyone else, look to me as some kind of spiritual expert or teacher. I don’t have to tiptoe around the word most of us hesitate to use in church or around Christian friends because it freaks us out so much.
>>>Yes. Doubt. Have you noticed that I way overuse the paragraph-comprised-of-a-single-word-or-sentence trick? It’s like a lazy, cheater’s shortcut to emphasize something. But occasionally it’s effective.
Like in the example above.
(Dang. I just did it again.)
Now that it’s out in the open, I can strip off my happy Christian mask, climb down from whatever pedestal I’ve hoisted myself upon, and be who I really am: a committed follower of Jesus who occasionally finds himself wondering if maybe, just maybe, we’ve made this whole thing up.
>>>I really struggled with this phrasing: “we’ve made this whole thing up.” It seems so…harsh and negative and blunt. But it’s honest, and I decided to side with honesty whenever possible during the writing process.
Let’s back up for a minute, though, because there will be plenty of room in this book for me to talk about myself. What I want to discuss here, at the beginning, is you. Let’s talk about what’s going through your head right now. I have a feeling you might be thinking one of two things. The first is this: He’s not sure he believes in God? The last thing I need to read is the navel gazing of some self-absorbed, relativistic, weak-minded writer who struggles with faith. If you have so much trouble believing in God, dude, why don’t you quit writing books and start reading the Word? (You might start with James 1:6. ) Pray or something, but quit blabbing about it. It’s bad enough that you’re questioning your own faith. Don’t pull us down with you!
>>>This is me covering my butt. Because I totally know people who would say that to me, and I need them to know that I know that’s what they think. This is also me preparing myself for the one-star Amazon reviews I figure will eventually show up.
Is that your response? If so, that’s fine. Don’t worry about it, because it’s not unexpected, and I totally forgive you for calling me “weak-minded.” Also, I admit to being “a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind,” as James so colorfully puts it. I’m not especially proud of being a doubter—like treading water in the ocean during a tropical storm, it can be exhausting, uncomfortable, and fairly dangerous—but I’m not going to pretend that it doesn’t have some redeeming qualities.
>>>My first real metaphor, this “treading water” thing. It’s creative, I guess, but I’m not sure it’s necessary. Might be too cute. I wrote this chapter in the late summer of 2007, so I’m pretty sure it was around the time Tropical Storm Erin hit the Texas coast. I would not be surprised at all if that event led to this particular metaphor.
Nor am I going to get defensive. You’re a little mean, perhaps, but not entirely wrong in wanting me to shut up so I don’t mess up the current quality of your belief. I don’t want to do that. So if you are rock-steady in your faith and have no interest in reading a book about doubt, then by all means, put this one down. Put it back on the shelf. Walk away slowly and enjoy your blessings. Firm faith is a gift. I’m happy for you—I wish I could be you.
>>>Two pages into the book and I’m telling people not to read my book. Brilliant.
But I’m not. Which brings us to a second potential reaction to my doubter’s confession. It’s one of recognition and relief: I completely understand about the doubt thing. What you’re going through? Same here. I have doubts, too. Big ones. I try to ignore them, I try to fight against them, and I try to pray for more faith. But no matter what books I read or what sermons I hear, I can’t get rid of these doubts.
If you identify with me, keep reading. Maybe we’re on the same road and we can walk together. It’s not the straight, easy road to faith. It’s no smooth interstate highway with well-lit rest stops and clean restrooms and lots of gas stations. It’s not always purpose-driven. It’s not the road where the driving comes with a great soundtrack—a crisp satellite radio connection to the Almighty.
>>>Here comes another metaphor: the oft-used road metaphor! Not at all original, though I definitely like the “purpose-driven” line. What bothers me, though, is the way I’m mixing up the metaphor. I’ve just noticed this.
It starts with us walking together…but we’re on an interstate highway? So are we hitchhikers or what? Oh, wait, now we’re driving. With a soundtrack. But driving! Man.
Nope, ours is the doubter’s road. It’s a winding, weird back road that never seems to get anywhere fast. This road is poorly lit, cratered with potholes, and far from flat. Every once in awhile it steers up into the mountains, where the air is fresh and the views are spectacular. But mostly it unwinds its graveled way through valleys, across deserts, and past sketchy small towns. The soundtrack of God’s voice crackles on the AM band through speakers that have had better days.
>>>I like the comparison between the certainty of hearing God’s voice as a crisp satellite radio connection and the uncertainty of straining to hear it crackling on the AM band through ancient speakers. I totally feel that way, especially around the super-spiritual folks who talk as if God is giving them instructions directly into their ears using heavenly comm units, like Chloe does to Jack Bauer. If God’s giving me those kinds of messages, I must have misread the protocols and ended up on the wrong channel. Because I can’t hear Chloe at all. So frustrating.
Wait, now I’ve lapsed into a “24” metaphor. I think I have a real problem. Is there a word for metaphor addiction?
This has been a long post. Thanks for reading this far.
O Me of Little Faith (without commentary) is available online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Christianbook.com, and at bookstores near you. If you want a Kindle or audio download, those are available, too.
If you were one of the nice people who volunteered to participate in the blog tour, now’s the time to post your review to Amazon and to your social media circles.
And now for a giveaway. Here’s the deal: I want you to go tell a friend — a specific person — about my book, via email, Twitter, Facebook, text, or in person. Then, I want you to come back here and leave a comment telling me the first name of the person you told. Then I will choose a random commenter from today’s post and give them two free books. One for you and one for your friend.
(No, I can’t prove at all that you’ve actually told someone and have therefore qualified for the giveaway. I’m just going to have to trust you.)