I gave up reading books for Lent except on feast days (Sunday). Forty days without turning the pages of a book, being riveted by story or inspired by the gift an author exhibits in stringing words together. On day one it seemed like a sacrifice, a surrendering I hoped God wouldn’t require of me. By day forty, I realized it wasn’t as hard as I assumed.
Like most things, our fear of outcomes in obedience is often more difficult to conquer than what God asks of us.
Twenty-four hours a week to luxuriate with a book other than the Bible made me realize that sometimes I am shackled by too many choices. In our culture of individualization as a high value, the options leave one second guessing about the “best” among a myriad of options.
What song on my Ipod will inspire my thinking most on my 30-minute walk?
What dress from the collection will make the best impression?
What book will challenge me the most from the stack?
Am I in the mood for steak or seafood from the menu?
Ever order something for dinner and with each bite drawn to your mouth, regret that you didn’t pick what she got instead? Or wish you would’ve spent those precious spare moments reading something different instead of that magazine article?
If we only have one choice, like one book to read for instance, we’re grateful for the opportunity. Sometimes having more gives opportunity to play God with our choices. Instead of contentment, we are left with an endless emptiness that cannot be satiated. That was the revelation during my Lenten fast of books.
On one of those feast days I read Michelle DeRusha’s book, Spiritual Misfit: A Memoir of Uneasy Faith, and I never second guessed my decision. I read it in one sitting. And that is a first time experience for this book lover.
Michelle writes, “God and his unfathomable mysteries did not fit into my everything-has-a-place-and-an-order-and-an-explanation world. What I didn’t quite realize at the time, of course, is that you can’t lay out life in an Excel spreadsheet. I may have preferred a precisely ordered universe, I may have craved structure and control, but that’s not what I was going to get.”
Her self-deprecating humor and stunning honesty leaves left me breathless with laughter and wiping tears from my cheeks as I turned the pages. Paragraphs were read out loud to my family members from the central place in our house — a couch in my living room. A quintessential storyteller who writes with vivid imagery, Michelle shares about unbelief and estrangement from God and how bravely admitting it brings an abiding faith in Jesus.
Self-doubt and faith can co-exist, that is what Michelle shows us through her journey as a Spiritual Misfit.
We have lots of choices about books we spend time with but I promise this one will not leave you wondering if you made the right decision. You’ll be grateful you took the journey. And then you’ll give copies away to your friends and family members.
And speaking of giveaways, I’m delighted to give away a copy of Spiritual Misfit to one lucky person who leaves a comment on this post or on my Facebook page. I’ll announce the winner on Friday!
How does self-doubt keep you from making decisions?
Shelly, your observations about self-sacrifice and surrender, realization and the riches of God’s provision are most insightful. I gave up reading books during Lent 2013 and read only THE Book, even on Sundays. =] No one told me one doesn’t fast on Sunday. It was difficult for me at first (I just knew I’d die! :-), but before long, I realized how confused I was becoming previously by all those choices, much as you observe. For me, I realized that I was seeking more the authors than the One who had inspired them for just the perfect answer, solution, or direction. Until that Lenten fast, I didn’t realize how obsessed I am with books, often with overlapping themes, wanting just the perfect one to speak to me, and yes, often feeling dissatified after my book fix. It was eye-opening and actually alarming (I would recommend this fast to any author or bibliophile). I do hope to read Michelle’s book, and I still read many books, but with newer, wiser, eyes.
I so appreciate your wisdom.
What a joy to see you here Lynn. You were missed and glad you are back. H kept asking me why I wasn’t reading today. I planned to but I guess the discipline was good for me.
Thank you for the warm welcome! I missed being here so much! And isn’t it interesting that you didn’t have to plan not to read? The depth of your experience has spilled over into your “every-day-normal” life. I find that quite beauitful, actually!
Very interesting thing to give up for Lent. I should have done just the opposite, as I seem to read too much about books, rather than just read the actual books. But in the end what I really need to do is dive deeper into my Bible.
there’s another interesting discussion centering around Holy Saturday – the day when Christ’s closest friends must have been second guessing their decisions and life… which perhaps rings true for many disenfranchised believers these days. I wish we had a church for these Spiritual Misfits – because in truth, I think we probably all have either been there, are there, or will be there at some point in our Walk…
I would love to read Michele’s book!
This is a book I definitely have on my wishlist. I appreciate her and your honesty very much. It encourages me.
I am reading this book now too. she is hysterical.
This is a beautiful review, Shelly, and those images are STUNNING! Thank you so very much, dear friend. I love you!
I love Michelle heart… her writing resonates with me… thanks for opportunity to win her book 🙂
I don’t need to be in the giveaway, but I wanted to thank you for these good words. I loved Michelle’s book, LOVED it, and just gave away two copies today. Glad you’re home – and waiting to read about it all.
Beautiful Post Shelly,
I love how you explain wondering/regretting the dinner choice.
The choice of reading material, music for walk and so on.
Truly never fails to amaze me what God does when we allow Him!
To answer your question “How does self doubt keep me from making decisions?” I would say that the inside-my-head little voice always comparing myself to others often keeps me from being as confident as I could be. And lack of confidence keeps me from simply trying whatever it is I could or should be doing.
Thank you for this post. I feel like I can relate to the quote you shared from her book. I love everything in place- literally as I like things straightened up at home, but even more so, I like things in place in life. Too often I want things in life to be in the place I want them to be. I’m reminded of Mark 9, “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.” This is probably a book that I should read! I enjoy your blog.
This book sounds just like something I would delight to read in a sitting on a Sunday. Thanks for the recommendation.
Sounds like a great book. Would like to be a part of your drawing.
Oh my. How self doubt keeps me from making decisions? In all too many ways. I’m not good enough. I haven’t perfected the material enough. If only I had a little bit more time to give this project. Hers looks better than mine. I need to read and study more before I participate…. See, I could go on and on with my list of excuses. Needless to say, if the book give away has anything to do with conquering self-doubt, sign me up. I’m your girl!