I am on vacation this week. So this is a ‘best of review’.
Assaulted by Joy is a good example of what seems to be a new genre of Christian memoir. These are the “how to grow up” books. Maybe this is not a new genre, but rather I am of the age, or just over the age, of the authors and both still am dealing with how to grow up and am surrounded by people that I just want to grow up.
The book starts out with the author, Stephen Simpson, discussing how much of a jerk he is.
“Still, I’m probably more of jerk than you are. It drives me nuts if something interferes with my life. I don’t like being bothered, and I don’t want any help. If you catch me when I’m in the mood to socialize, you’ll love me. Work with my schedule and I’ll deliver the sun and the moon. Otherwise, I hate being told what to do, and I have problems with authority. I’m short-tempered when I’m under stress or in a hurry. I start yelling inside my car when another driver cuts me off. As a bonus, I have Attention Deficit Disorder, which means I get impatient, irritated, and bored faster than normal people do.”
I think many in our world, myself included, are accurately described as “jerks”.
I will not spoil the story but there are two points that I think are really good in the book. One is when Stephen and his wife are sorting through a very difficult decision. They actually go to an ethicist to help them work through the issues. (Both he and his wife are graduates of Fuller, and he continues to work there, so it is former professors of theirs.) The ethicist (Ray) gives them an answer that I wish more pastors and friends would give people, “But Ray also told us something else. ‘You’re looking for answers,’ he said, ‘when what you need are accomplices.'” Simpson and his wife have a whole community come around them, this is the heart of the gospel in my mind. Not correct doctrine, not right belief, but accomplices that will walk with people through the struggles.
The second point that I found really helpful was really the final conclusion. Stephen says, “There’s a part of me that refuses to accept that I don’t need more. I never feel smart enough, fit enough, or wealthy enough. It’s hard for me to believe that there’s not more fun to be had around the next corner. The good news is that it doesn’t take as much as it used to for me to see that this isn’t true. Now, all it takes is one of my children crying because I’m leaving. They know I’ll be back, but they don’t even like it when I’m gone for a little while. How much more do I need to convince me that I’m worth something? Why do I think that there’s some rush or high that’s better than the love of my family?” I think this is the point that in our youth-oriented, goal-oriented culture we often miss. There really is something good about staying home and focusing on family.
In the end joy really does save him, not only from cynicism but in a positive way it makes him into the type of father that we all know we need to be. Not a perfect person, but one that is content and striving to be better.
Assaulted by Joy Purchase Links: Paperback