This week my goal is to publish three posts, each about a different book I’ve read in the past few months that has left a deep impression on me. I am starting with Something Other Than God. Last fall I read this incredible memoir by Jennifer Fulwiler. She chronicles her journey to Christianity after growing up in an atheist family. Her story is fascinating, and her humor and humility come through in her writing. It’s one of the best memoirs I’ve ever read.
Her story is so different from my own, but we do have a few things in common. We both moved frequently as children because of our dads’ jobs, and we are both college-educated American women. Actually, I guess that’s about all we have in common until we reach the point in her story when she becomes a mother. Having a baby was a turning point for her. She had struggled to face her own mortality; the thought of her child’s mortality was more than she could handle. Yet, heaven was one of that last pieces of the puzzle that she fit into place as she opened her eyes, her mind, and her heart to God.
Her journey is far from smooth, and her husband shows little interest in her search even though he has always considered himself a Christian. He seems to be too busy starting his own law firm to help his wife find answers to life’s biggest questions, until one day he unexpectedly jumps into an online discussion she’s having and suddenly becomes more enthusiastic than she is to learn more about the history of Christianity and to ponder moral issues. His turning point is one of my favorite moments in the book, so I don’t want to reveal what prompts it.
The title comes from C.S. Lewis, who once wrote, “All that we call human history . . . [is] the long, terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.” Fulwiler spent about 20 years of her life trying to have as much fun as possible in an effort to forget that she would one day die, that someday there would be nothing left of her. Ultimately, she learns that true happiness comes from service to God and others. There’s nothing wrong with having fun, but lasting happiness only comes from opening ourselves to God’s plan for our lives.
Fulwiler has helped me see that God has a mission for me, too. Really, I should have been more aware of it all along. I have a husband and three children, and I’m supposed to be caring for them and teaching my little ones and helping them all follow the path to heaven. That means I need to turn off Facebook and go fold the laundry in service to my family. Or better yet, I need to encourage my seven-year-old and five-year-old to sit down with me and learn how to fold the laundry because I need to teach them about serving others as well. Most importantly, it means nurturing the spiritual life of my family so that we can each grow closer to God and hear His voice in our hearts, inviting each of us to live out His plan for us.
Fulwiler’s next book will be out in 2018. The title is One Beautiful Dream: The Rollicking Tale of Personal Passions, Family Chaos, and Saying Yes to Them Both. I can’t wait to read it! In the meantime, I’ll probably be rereading Something Other Than God, and I highly recommend that you pick it up as well.