The first thing you may do after reading Something Other Than God by Jennifer Fulwiler (Ignatius Press, 2014) is think of several people you know who should read it. Like Oprah and cars, I want to say, "Everybody gets a book!"
Great comments and reviews of SOTG started popping up all over social media just as soon as the book was officially released on April 29. Since I pre-ordered on Amazon back in January, I figured I'd be among the first "regular people" to read it and write my own review. Not so fast.
On May 1, Amazon emailed me and said I owed an additional $1.10 because some of the rewards points that I used back in January were no longer valid. So I coughed up the additional dough, and the book arrived a few days behind schedule (last Sunday, thanks to Amazon's new Sunday delivery policy). So now I'm ready to write.
|Special Sunday delivery|
I was very interested in reading this book for numerous reasons.
1) I'm also a Catholic convert. I didn't come from the atheist realm as Jen did, but I definitely realized when I entered the church in 2005 that God had been tapping me on the shoulder for a long time. Conversion stories are very inspiring. Cradle Catholics were born into their faith. But adult converts actually know what they are getting into. And it was fascinating to follow Jen's spiritual journey in the book.
2) I'm a regular reader of the Conversion Diary blog and participate in the 7 Quick Takes linkup every Friday. In fact, if I didn't have a self-imposed deadline to write a 7QT post every week then I'd probably hardly ever write anything on my blog.
3) I'm also an introvert. However, I jokingly shake my head whenever Jen says in the book or on her blog that she's introvert. If she is, then she is (or was) the most party-throwing, gala-attending, globe-trotting, celebrity elbow-rubbing introvert I've ever heard of. If you compare our levels of introversion, I'm like a contemplative monk who's taken a vow of silence and lives in a hermitage on top of a mountain, and she's, well, Oprah. Or maybe she's just better at hiding or coping with her introversion than I am.
Many of the Fulwiler fans who read this book and posted about it online only needed a day or two to read it. It's definitely a page turner that you can whip through rather quickly. Although in my case it still took me almost a week while trying to balance reading time with working all day, spending time with the family in the evenings and also watching Braves games on the internet. I had to do some serious multitasking. As you can see in the photo, I'm watching the Braves and reading SOTG simultaneously. You can't see it in the picture, but the baby was also in the bathtub at the same time!
|The Braves lost, but the book is a winner|
It was a pleasure to read the book and get the "full story" behind the author's conversion. Sure, I know the basics from reading the blog and watching Minor Revisions (which I refuse to call a reality show because I don't watch reality shows). But now that I've read SOTG, I feel like I know the rest of the story. As I was reading, I found myself rooting for her along the way and sometimes thinking, Hello, don't you realize that God is talking to you? Why aren't you listening?
Living in the Austin area, I appreciated the local references in the book, although I can't say I'm one to yearn for the hustle and bustle of downtown, desire the party scene or hang out with jazz legends in trendy restaurants. Jen may have chilled out with Clifford Antone at Guero's, but with my luck I'm probably more likely to run into the guy from Leave it to Beaver at a fast food place. And maybe "The Beav" would be the one taking my order.
What I like most about the book are Jen's wit, self-deprecating humor, brutal honesty and determination to seek the truth. Any story, no matter how serious, can and should be told with at least some humor. She accomplished this expertly. I don't use silly emoticons or text message acronyms, but I really did LOL at what I thought was the funniest line in the book. I won't disclose it for those who haven't read it yet. All I'll say is it has to do with a curious atheist, a toilet and God. Oh, and it's on page 88.
It's the truth-seeking determination that ultimately led Jen to God. And thank God that she was persistent. Or maybe I should say thank God that God was persistent. I think many people in that situation would be susceptible to giving up or trying hard to ignore God's calling. But by always asking questions, she finally found and believed the answers.
God truly works in mysterious ways. He talks to each and every one one of us. We just don't always realize it. And when we do realize it, we don't always listen. God reached out to Jen through a Christian summer camp (with an overzealous counselor), a creek expedition, a cemetery, old photographs, pregnancy and perhaps most strongly, through her and her husband's success-seeking professional desires. God humbled them; God humbles me; God humbles us all.
My own conversion story is quite different. I wasn't seeking the truth or constantly asking questions. My conversion story can be summed up by a simple phrase that special guest star Ricardo Montalban used over and over in an episode of Dora the Explorer: "Falta algo - Something's missing." (Incidentally, that was Montalban's greatest role since playing Vincent Ludwig in The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!, but don't watch it with the kids.)
I knew all my life that something was missing, but I didn't know what. Now when I look back I recognize that the void was brutally obvious. God called me for several years at a Christian summer camp (but nobody forced me to proclaim anything), a Catholic high school, a Methodist college, through my wife and in so many other ways in daily life. And like Jen, I learned through my faith that it's okay to accept help.
A big turning point was when I reluctantly agreed to live in the Ronald McDonald house after our first born was rushed to a trauma center for emergency surgery when she was one day old. When the NICU nurse said she called in a referral to the Ronald McDonald House, I said, "Why? We live only 30 miles away." Thank God that I gave in an accepted the help. But that's a story for another time.
Something Other Than God will surely appeal to a wide audience. It's not a book that will be hidden away on the shelves of a religious bookstore. It's a spiritual journey everyone should read, even if you have differing views.
I don't know who will go to Heaven (that's way above my pay grade). But if Jen walks through the pearly gates, God won't say, "I've been calling you ever since you were baptized. What took you so long?" Nope. God will say, "I knew you were listening. Welcome home!"