I owe a good deal to Preston Yancey. When I first happened upon his blog a few years back, I had little idea how much his words would come to mean to me.
Last spring I took his Sacramental Baking e-course. The combination of baking and spiritual disciplines was impossible to resist. We learned about sourdough starter and Lectio Divina, Rosemary Remembrance Bread and Praying in Color. By practicing different forms of prayer as we baked, the mundane became a way of centering ourselves.
Each Saturday we would put a new spiritual discipline into practice. The Visual Lectio Divina exercise allowed me to see I needed a therapy tune-up. I had proof on the page before me of how stuck and overwhelmed I felt. I still see my counselor at least once a month nearly a year and a half later. Though I no longer feel stuck, regular visits are an act of self-care.
Preston and I Skyped before the e-course ended as part of the class.
We talked about what I'd been learning through the e-course and how the different recipes had turned out. (Everything worked but the sourdough starter. Someday I will prevail!) And then I filled him in on how hard it had been to go to church for the last 6 or so months. Every week I'd psych myself up to go and every Sunday morning I'd be very sure about not going. I battled between the expectations I'd grown up with and the angst courtesy of accumulated church baggage.
Preston listened intently and then he asked me the question that changed everything.
"What if you took yourself off the hook and saw this as a sabbatical from church instead of beating yourself up every Sunday for not following through?"
Preston loves the Church so I didn't expect to hear this from him but it was just what I needed. My relationship with God grew stronger than ever, as I experienced Him through conversations with friends, song lyrics, books, and the great outdoors. My church sabbatical gave me the space to heal and to figure out what I was looking for. It lasted 5 months.
I don't think Preston was surprised when I landed in an Episcopal church. He made the transition from evangelical upbringing to Anglicanism himself. I often marvel at the way he discusses God and the Church and theology.
I tell you all this so you'll have a glimpse of how I felt when Tables in the Wilderness: A Memoir of God Found, Lost, and Found Again arrived in the mail this past June. I held the ARC in my hands and I cried. I am so proud of what my friend has accomplished and have no doubt it will speak to many.
This spiritual memoir resonated with me in ways big and small. Though our lives look very different, I related to the ways Preston looked to hear from and experience God. God went silent while Preston attended Baylor University and this loss ultimately teaches Preston what it is to hear.
This called to mind a dark night of the soul that happened in my early 20s, a season where I did not hear from God and had to grasp every bit of faith to believe He was still present in spite of His perceived absence. I wish I would have had this book then.
When I read Tables in the Wilderness, my summer of transitions was about to begin. In the months since, I have referred to starred and underlined passages on a regular basis. Passages that speak to my situation and remind me of God's presence in the midst of uncertainties.
Wisdom and grace permeate the pages of this beautifully written book.
We can find God and lose Him in many ways throughout our lives. We are worn down by life at times and this can make it that much harder to sense Godhead in the mundane. We may trust He is there, even if we no longer sense Him, but when the days turn into weeks turn into months, the longing turns into an ache. And then what?
"You don't always get to know when you set out on the journey. In fact, Abraham will wander in a circle before he is sent out to where he is eventually to be." -Preston Yancey, p. 205
Each time I've set out into the unknown, I have eventually landed where I was meant to be all along. It never looks like what I imagined and very rarely do I have anything to do with the result. I am changed by the process and more aware of my smallness and God's vast mystery.
I suppose this then is why I recommend Preston's memoir. Tables in the Wilderness serves as a guide through the unknown. Through Preston's story, we see ourselves. We remember our smallness and God's vast mystery.
We remember what it is to be lost and then found. We remember what it is to be welcomed at the Table.
Full disclosure: I received an advance copy of this book but all thoughts and opinions are my own. I was not paid to provide a positive review. Amazon affiliate links have been included. If you click through to Amazon, your purchase helps support this site.