Sometimes people read my book and say, "I really admire that guy." You know, the little jumping fish that doesn't give up, and all that. I've tried as hard as I can to disillusion people, but if it hasn't worked, all I can say is that you'll have to wait for Eileen Janaro to publish her version of the story (we joke about this--she could call it I Give Up! My Husband: Lord, Have Mercy!).
Seriously, I would rather point to God's mercy and remain in the background (even as I struggle with the immature part of me that always wants attention). Perhaps the book's subtitle should have been: God's Mercy and The Reality of Human Life. The circumstances of my story reflect my experience of being a human being. If I have anything worth sharing, it is not because of me. It is because of the greatness of the love of God.
The fact is that everybody suffers in an intensely personal way. I really hope that people will read the book and discover their own relationship with Jesus. I tell the story of some of my struggles with physical and mental illness, with the apparent collapse of my career and my work, with a premature baby seven months in the hospital, etc. Obviously, this has been some tough stuff in my life. But when I talk to other people, inevitably I find that they have things in their lives that are overwhelming to them.
People have all kinds of suffering and all kinds of problems, and their pain is very real. People have problems with illnesses, relationships, spouses, kids, parents, jobs, money, loneliness, disappointment, God (yes indeed), sin, addiction, loneliness, dryness, boredom, loneliness, loneliness, anger, frustration, loneliness, the sense of failure (they're "stuck;" they're "not appreciated;" their lives don't mean anything; they're getting old and they've "missed" life; or they're young and anxious and confused). Did I mention loneliness? There is this strange and profound loneliness, because life doesn't seem to fulfill its promise, because spouse, family, and friends fall short of the human person's need for love.
Every person suffers, and in our culture we flee from suffering and pursue false promises of comfort and happiness (which lead to more suffering). Eventually, however, we will be humbled and required to confront our own brokenness. At this point, we can give up. Or we can allow that mysterious cry from the roots of ourselves to surge up: the cry for help, the cry of expectation, the cry of a hope that endures in us in the midst of every kind of darkness and desperation. We know that life is a promise, and thus we continue to ask, and we let ourselves become little again, and willing to be led by the hand.
As for me? I am just like everybody else. I run away from suffering as fast as I can, and seek distraction and anesthesia just as much as anyone else. But I was "blessed" in a way. Suffering caught up with me and cracked me over the head, and so I was forced to deal--a little bit--with real life. I have attempted to express in my book the need for the mercy of God that we all have, and that we are provoked to recognize by our suffering.
...n.b. My friend Lauren, who blogs at The Loveliest Hour, is giving away a free, autographed copy of my book in her book contest. Click the link and enter. That book will be worth money when I'm famous. ;)