Aloof: Figuring Out Life With A God Who Hides, by Tony Kriz
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by BookLook/Thomas Nelson Publishers in exchange for an honest review.]
Why does God keep His distance and not intervene or communicate in life despite our fervent longings to connect with Him? At its core, this book is an exploration of the silence of God, the shyness of God, who works occasionally through divine providence but does not overawe or terrify us with His continual presence, lest we take Him for granted. This book is a spiritual memoir of a man who is honest with his doubts and with his mistakes, of which there are plenty of both to be found. Particularly painful to read was his discussion of a spectacularly ill-fated missionary trip to Macedonia that included political problems with the government, an unpleasant and complicated emotional affair with a young lady, and an embarrassed and awkward return to the Portland area after being thrown out of his service project where the author had to piece together a shattered reputation after being publicly labeled a “relationship molester.” Nor is this all. The whole book was commissioned in a sense by the author’s young nephew, who died young due to cancer, and whose brave struggle with death inspired the author to write nakedly and vulnerably about his own struggles to understand God’s ways.
This unconventional but well-organized book is divided into four parts. The first part looks at the childhood experiences of the author that shook his face by encouraging to be a phony about faith. The second part looks at the experiences of the author in the dojo as a college student who God pursued forcefully, in the author’s words. The third part looks at the author’s initial successes as a missionary young adult, along with his fatal flaws coming from a distant relationship with his father and some very mistaken views about God. Finally, the book looks honestly and painfully at how the author’s life fell apart and was reconstructed better than before, with a good marriage and a loving community of faith. If we could all be so lucky, I suppose. This narrative, despite the pain it talks about, is a fit one that would probably make a dramatic biopic, even if the author is one of the more obscure Portland-based writers I have seen in the course of my reading.
At its core, this book suggests a view about God’s presence and absence that is both compelling and terrifying. We are not God’s spouses yet, but rather God’s betrothed, His fiances. This life is not about the rapturous enjoyment of constant walking with God, but about the waiting and longing of someone whose marriage has not come yet, who is looking forward to happily ever after, and with the changes and growth and hard work that come with that change of status. God does not want to overwhelm us with His presence or to give us everything we want, for it is our lacking and our longing that push us to understand His ways and to seek after them wholeheartedly. It is not our talents that pave the way into His kingdom, but our poverty and our heartfelt longings that demonstrate our need for Him that we cannot quench on our own. For if we were self-sufficient, we would have no need of Him, and would not be stirred to seek Him, or to answer His call. Rather, we would be blissfully ignorant of anything outside of our mundane earthly existence, and that would be the most tragic end of all.