Christ Pantocrator – ancient icon of Jesus Christ from the Monastery of St Catherine, Sinai.
Have you ever tried to have a conversation with a stranger about God? It’s not really supposed to be done. Or so we’ve been told and so a lot a lot of thoughts—some dark, some brilliant, some silly, some scary—go unspoken and (perhaps more importantly) unheard.
Even among family and friends it’s too often considered impolite to talk about religion or politics, especially how we feel about God; or about what convictions we hold or no longer hold. At the deepest core of ourselves we have doubts or quandaries we find hard to express. We hedge our bet. We play it safe. We avoid stirring the pot.
Then there’s our tendency to wall ourselves into rooms of like-minded folks who see most everything the way we do, piling the stonework so high we no longer hear or see the people who differ from us.
Nowhere are these differences sharper than in our reading of Holy Scripture. Sometimes within our walled-off compounds the disagreements are yet more pronounced, battle lines are drawn and there are casualties.
Now imagine there’s a well-lit comfortable room with large armchairs, couches and rugs where all of the walled off people are now together and they’re talking, saying whatever they like about God, wrestling with the hard stuff, and at the center of their conversation is…incredibly…the Bible.
True believers and fierce doubters, honest sinners and disappointed saints, are gathered around a fire. And they’re doing something so rare in our culture it’s almost heroic: they’re actually listening to one another’s stories about what the Bible means to them or no longer means, or what they hope it might come to mean if they just keep at reading it.
The stories are by turns funny, sad, real, inspiring, tough, straight, courageous, encouraging, cutting, bright, and beautiful, and it’s at once both hard and enjoyable to listen.
Jennifer Grant and Cathleen Falsani brought this room of storytellers and stories together in their new book, Disquiet Time: Rants and Reflections on the Good Book by the Faithful, the Skeptical, and a Few Scoundrels.
There’s a conviction that undergirds the book and it’s that God can handle our questions, our feelings, our honesty, our shouting, and our doubts about the Scriptures because he is that big.
There are 46 contributors. Some known (Brian McLaren, Susan Isaacs, Ian Cron) and all admired within their circle but all of them—all of them—get a grip on your heart and you don’t want to let go until they bless you.
Eugene Peterson (who penned the introduction) says the contributors have at least two things in common: they don’t have an enemy they’re writing in response to (refreshing!) and they aren’t trying to fit God into their story but seeking to discover how they and their lives fit into God’s good story.
I am grateful to have an essay in this conversation about an icon that means a great deal to me.
I hope you will take a chance on this lovely, fierce, entertaining book. With 46 voices you really do get your money’s worth.
You’ll find Disquiet Time as challenging and strangely edifying as anything you’ve read in a long time. My wide network of friends are loving it.
The book can be ordered at Barnes & Noble and many other online retailers and independent booksellers. (Visit IndieBound.org to find the independent bookstore nearest you.)
I’m buying a copy for the first reader who correctly identifies the writer of the following verse and the street he grew up on:
“Stop helping God across the road like a little old lady.”