Friday, June 18, 2010
Book Review: O Me of Little Faith
Is it O.K. to doubt God? Is questioning your faith acceptable? These are the questions I struggled with as I read Jason Boyette’s new book, “O Me of Little Faith.”
This is a painfully honest book, and if you’re not ready to delve into the deep dark world of doubt, this probably won’t be a book you’ll want to read. But if you’re looking for a memoir that is vulnerable and real about the Christian faith—all of it—then you might be interested.
I’ll admit I had some issues with Jason. His chapter on prayer was especially inconsistent, in my view. He starts out the chapter saying that basically he doesn’t pray because he’s not so sure that prayer really matters, later admitting that he doesn’t pray as much as he should. But then, toward the end of the chapter, he’s all over the prayer aspect of his faith, saying that using liturgical prayer has greatly helped his prayer life.
Huh? I thought you said you didn’t have much of a prayer life.
As an English teacher, these types of inconsistencies bothered me throughout the book.
But, as much as the inconsistencies bugged me, his conclusion delighted me. I’m glad I read through to the end, because that's where Jason got me (or I got him, not sure which). Even though he spends much of the book bemoaning his conservative Christian upbringing and his internal angst about his lack of faith, he concludes in such a satisfactory way, to me, because he basically says this: Faith is putting one foot in front of the other, day after day, sometimes plodding on toward an uncertain goal.
But it’s worth it.
And that’s where I agree wholeheartedly with Jason. Having faith is not a feeling; it’s a decision.
“In religious faith, as in parenting and marriage, the best response to uncertainty and doubt is commitment. Your kids may occasionally disappoint you, but you love them and raise them anyway, gritting your teeth and hoping for the best. Your spouse may be less than perfect, but you commit to a lifetime of companionship anyway, loving sacrificially and praying for grace. Your relationship with God may be full of doubt, but you leap to faith and hope it’s all real. You worship. You gather with other believers. You pray for mercy.”
And this is the part I especially liked, when he talks about just holding on to faith, even when parts of you want to let go: “. . . I try to keep pedaling, even when I’m doubting. I keep living as a committed Christian, even on the days when I don’t feel like one. . . . I keep living as if the sun will rise, as if I’ll survive the waters of baptism, as if Jesus will indeed carry me safely across the falls. That’s me in the corner, trying not to lose my religion. How? By working out my salvation with fear and trembling.”
So Jason’s conclusion, that we Christians need a heavy dose of commitment and wherewithal to pursue Christ on those days we doubt, is pretty satisfying to me as I put one foot in front of the other, pressing on toward the goal.