Tables In The Wilderness: A Memoir Of God Found, Lost, And Found Again, by Preston Yancey
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by BookLook/Zondervan Press in exchange for an honest review.]
This book belongs to the memoirs of those whose road to a somewhat unconventional faith has come about through crises and trouble, and this is not an entirely unheard of sort of memoir in my library . This particular book is a compelling read, in part because the author is so honest and candid and in part because his experience of a difficult time when he felt that God was silent in the face of his doubts and struggles is unusual, when such times in the wilderness are not that unfamiliar for believers at all, if my own personal experience and that of others I know is any indication. There are a few powerful lessons that can be learned from this book, including the fact that it is easiest to write about difficult times when life has gone well, and also the fact that having a good book agent and friendly publishers helps a lot.
The organization of this book is mostly chronological, with a twist. It begins somewhat near the end, as the author has to deal with people who are challenging him about his crisis of faith, and his unwillingness to commit to God or to the woman he loves, or even a church to attend as a member. There is then a long flashback going back to the author’s home and family life (as a Southern baptist from a preacher’s family) who has a long-lasting but not particularly healthy relationship with a couple of young women in high school and college, and a “family” at Baylor that breaks up under the strain of people going many different directions, including the failure of a church planting effort. For the most part, the author’s crisis of faith does not seem too unusual, but it is certainly well-written and easy to relate to.
There are some elements that bear concern in the author’s approach. Throughout much of the book, the author appears to be somewhat confident in his view in his own superiority–he writes blog entries that he has to apologize about (who hasn’t done that?), and struggled with the relationship between the head and the heart, between faith and action, coming to a set of beliefs that was very heavily liturgical. The author finds himself deeply attracted to “tradition” even though much of that tradition appears to be deeply influenced by heathen beliefs and the influence of centuries of Roman Catholicism. Still, the longings that this author has for being rooted in a community of believers with roots going back a long way as well as a seasonal pattern of faith throughout the year are longings that could be met with a proper understanding of the Sabbath and Holy Days. Sadly, this never appears to have been in the radar of the author, whose readings of the early church fathers and other mystical saints apparently does not leave the proper room for an exploration of the Bible, rather than what a lot of people have said about the Bible. Still, if the destination and wayposts of the author’s struggle with faith are not necessarily a worthy example, this book is still a compelling read about the struggle we all have with God at times when He appears silent to our prayers and appeals. Sometimes God has to build our trust in Him in drastic ways; I speak from personal experience here.
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