When Jason Boyett and I realized we had both written memoir-style books about our experiences with doubt to be published byZondervan in the spring/summer of 2010, we decided to team up rather than compete—an arrangement that has probably worked more in my favor than his, seeing as Jason’s already published a shelf-full of books and has earned a reputation for being one of the industry’s most thoughtful and humorous voices.
We interviewed each other (here and here), struck up an email correspondence, and finally met in person at the Festival of Faith and Writing Grand Rapids a couple of weeks ago. Though our alligator- wrestling/circus-themed book tour never materialized (I’m sure it was just a liability issue), we’ve stayed in touch and Jason has been incredibly encouraging and supportive throughout the publishing process.
When I received my review copy of O Me of Little Faith, I must confess I was a little nervous. What if we essential wrote the same book? I wondered. And what if—God forbid— his is better than mine?
But what I experienced as I read O Me of Little Faith can only be described as the relief and joy that comes with knowing you are not alone. In fact, the first thing I said to Dan after finishing the last page was, “I really wish I had encountered a book like this back when I first started to doubt.”
What’s great about O Me of Little Faith is that it addresses doubt in a way that is funny, thoughtful, and disarmingly candid. Like a good traveling companion, Jason offers fellow skeptics the kind of wisdom and insight that comes from firsthand experiences and writes in a way that is both instructive and lighthearted.
Highlights for me included Chapter 2 (“Turtles All the Way Down”), in which Jason manages to use a strange blend of Stephen Hawking and Dr. Suess to engage readers in a really helpful dissection of presuppositional apologetics, Chapter 4 ( “The Weight of Absence”), which beautifully illustrates the fear and emptiness that comes from not feeling God’s presence as often or as keenly as other people seem to, and Chapter 5 (“Reverse Bricklaying”), which describes Jason’s struggles with prayer and the comfort he finds in traditional liturgy.
Jason is known for his witty one-liners, and O Me of Little Faith is full of those (one of my favorite— “There are two kinds of people in this world: those who have read Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time, and those who want you to think they have read it”) but in addition to these, readers will bump into some pretty profound one-liners too. Some that stuck with me:
- “…Faith isn’t the absence of doubt. It’s believing and acting alongside your doubts.”
- “I need grace now because I’m a bastard. But God loves me anyway, and my faith is balanced between his grace on one side and my doubt on the other. I’m learning to live in the tension between those two poles.”
- [Faith is] believing that God will arrive, even if you can barely hear his song right now. Faith is not what you have when God is parked in front of your house… Is faith simply what remains when God is absent?
- “Hiding our doubt pulls us further from God and denies us the blessing of real community.”
It’s that last one that reminded me of why books like O Me of Little Faith are so important and why wanting a monopoly on the subject would be terribly selfish. Doubt is most painful and most dangerous when it is experienced in solitude, when we hide it behind religious masks or beneath cynical scowls. It is most productive and most redemptive when we wrestle with it together, in community—listening to one another, learning from one another, and loving one another through both the good and bad days.
As it turns out, Jason and I didn’t write the same book. Our stories are different. The issues that trigger our doubts are different. Our responses are different. But like a lot of Christians, we both doubt. And like a lot of Christians, we’re ready to talk about it.
And that’s so much easier to do when you know you’re not alone.
So, what do you think about Christians writing openly about their doubts? How might such books be helpful to certain readers? Is there anything we should be wary of? Anything that should encourage us?
[And if you’ve read Jason’s book, feel free to link to your review or share your thoughts.]