Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Review: Something Other Than God

Minutes ago I finished reading Jennifer Fulwiler’s new book, Something Other Than God. I began following her blog somewhere around 2007 or 2008 and still eagerly await each post, so of course I got the book (Kindle version) as soon after publication as I could. And rather than write a post here, I thought about writing a review on Amazon along the lines of the following:

“If you have ever asked yourself questions like, ‘What kind of people might be recruited to help a wounded yeti safely through a metropolitan area?’ or ‘How might I be able to really sock it to that smug-looking stuffed animal over there?’ or ‘I wonder if there is a way to make my ear canals a little sexier?’…well…you may have written this book. But if any of these questions piques your interest, you just might want to at least check it out….”

But I decided against it, because honestly, this book is just too weighty to sum up in a few humorous (and slightly stretched…?) sentences. While it made me laugh a few times, there were also many points where I was on the verge of tears (especially the last several chapters). I found the reasonable thought processes and the practicality appealing. The writing style kept me riveted and I read through the entire book rather quickly and without getting bored ever. But even more than all that, I was drawn to the ways in which God revealed Himself to this inadvertent seeker.

Jennifer struggled with vivid and valid questions about injustice and suffering. She deeply questioned the apparent inconsistency of God in terms of whose prayers He answered and whose He didn’t…why He sustained and/or protected some people and allowed great sorrow and suffering in other cases…why death, in all its unpredictability and sorrow and tragedy, hovered as the backdrop of each person’s life, more conspicuously present and vivid for some than for others.

I have had my own internal battles to understand suffering and injustice and death. One of my poignant memories in this area occurred probably four years ago after a long-term off-and-on battle with depression and hopelessness. I felt such unalleviable angst that I found myself driving to a cemetery on the edge of town, where I wandered from one crumbling gravestone to the next, weeping with sorrow over the life thereby represented, and over the fact of that last marker of someone’s existence now decaying into impending oblivion.

After a lot of grappling on these subjects, on page 227 Jennifer states, “I’d always heard the ticking of the clock that counts down the seconds as we all get closer to death; now I should see its ticking as a countdown to the end of unjust suffering.” She does not reference simply death here, and a complete end of one’s existence, but to God’s intervention in human history and suffering to establish a way to enter an existence as He had originally planned for humanity – one free of sin and its consequences of evil and injustice and sorrow: in short, heaven.

I love the hope that emanates from this memoir. I am so thankful Jennifer worked so long to produce this account of her initial process of encountering God. Truth be told, in the last few years I have in some ways moved in the opposite direction, occasionally even questioning the existence of the God in whom I have believed for most of my life (though even as a child I harbored some cynical questions about the validity of the Bible and its message). I have craved a more personal interaction with Him – that revealing that is so obvious in Something Other Than God. Perhaps I’ll take a page from Jennifer’s book and concentrate on getting myself in the right condition to hear from God and then see what he says.

If you don’t believe in God, and you have very good scientific reasoning for it, I think you would like this read. The logic is fascinating. If you do believe in God, but you have doubts, or even just a yearning for His presence, I think you would like the book, too. I found it spiritually uplifting.