For Lent this year, I gave up nonfiction. I had a stack of novels I wanted to get through, and I kept getting distracted by easy-to-digest nonfiction books. You know, the kind with headings interrupting the flow of text every page or so. I wanted to delve into a novel, a storyline that flowed and flowed without stopping (except for chapter breaks) till the very last page of the book.
I love chunky novels. I also fear them, the way they suck you in and make you live their characters’ lives, while also living your own. It’s a bizarre sort of parallel existence, and the better and more engrossing the novel, the bizarrer the parallel life.
But this Lent, I was ready for long. I longed for that bizarre and wonderful sense of living two lives. So I eliminated nonfiction from my life.
Then—oh woe-is-me then—Michelle deRusha’s new memoir, Spiritual Misfit, showed up in my mailbox. I gave it a longing look, peeked at its table of contents, wondered whether a memoir was technically nonfiction, decided that it technically was, and resolutely shoved it under the stack of fat novels that were awaiting my time and attention.
But Easter Monday, first thing, I pulled Spiritual Misfit out and read it for two straight hours until my children insisted that I parent them. Little nuisances. But duty calleth. I put the book down. I parented.
Come bedtime, I picked the book back up…and didn’t put it down till I’d finished it. That’s right. I read the whole thing in a day. It was that good.
Michelle is wise and witty, and she is dang flipping funny. I laughed out loud so many times I lost count…and I don’t laugh out loud easily. I smile. I might even chuckle. But I don’t laugh. Except that I did. A lot.
Maybe it’s that I could identify with Michelle so much. Type A, driven, and sometimes irrational, I bet she organizes her underwear drawer by color or lace/no-lace or some such criteria. I get it. Your underwear drawer is about the only part of the house that you have control over when you’re a mom.
Let’s face it, the hardest part of having kids isn’t the overwhelming responsibility of keeping little people safe. It’s not that you have the power to shape their characters and you might blow it. It’s not even that you could potentially raise a sociopath if you’re not careful. It’s that you never ever ever get to organize a drawer or a bin or a shelf or a closet and have the satisfaction of knowing it will stay organized. Because it won’t.
Michelle understands that this is hard. She understands that, given such high levels of chaos, sometimes ordinarily thoughtful, kind, Jesus-loving mamas throw crackers at their kids. She even gets that you sometimes do the cracker-throwing on the very day you decide you’re going to live for Jesus on a whole new level, that in fact, you did live on a whole new level; you just didn’t realize the level would be down. She gets that you threw the crackers because you’re, well, still in process. And sometimes that process involves an unconventional use of crackers.
God will use anything.
This is billed as a memoir of uneasy faith. But Michelle’s faith isn’t much more uneasy than mine. Doubt is a part of faith, not its opposite. And in this almost post-Christian culture we live in, most any thoughtful person of faith is going to have some questions that have no easy answers. Michelle asks those questions… and sometimes she lets them remain largely unanswered. What drew me about this book wasn’t so much Michelle’s journey from Christian?!? to “Christian” to Christian, though that was interesting.
Rather, it was her journey into spiritual maturity, with stops and starts and stutters but a general trajectory toward wholeness, that grabbed me and kept me reading—because that’s a road that I’m walking, too, and it’s always good to have friends for the journey.
And by the end of the book, Michelle felt like a friend, the kind of person I could share my own cracker-throwing incidents with, and she would listen and understand and help me laugh at myself and walk with me back to the trenches.
If you’re a mom who’s not perfect, may I gently suggest you give yourself a belated Mother’s Day gift and get your hands on a copy of Michelle’s book?