Tables in the Wilderness by Preston Yancey {Book Review}

“Our God is bigger than our walls. God has God’s own, but I’m not sure we’ve found as many of them as we think.”
– Preston Yancey, Tables in the Wilderness: A Memoir of God Found, Lost, and Found Again

I picked up this book planning on liking it. I read it while in the midst of, and in recovery from, writing my 31 days series about our God who is bigger than our opinions. Preston Yancey’s story is just another piece in that beautifully articulated puzzle of who God is amidst our own thoughts and experiences.

Tables in the Wilderness is almost a sort of coming of age story in Christian belief and thought. Yancey goes to college with his life figured out and God turns everything upside down and inside out. God goes seemingly silent and Yancey realizes that the way he knew God before was only a piece of who God is.

It’s an exploration of a God free from human restriction and expectation.

Yancey’s story is sort of the opposite of my own in that he went from knowing a God who spoke clearly to own who is found within the structure and liturgy of God revealed more opaquely. He went from a more charismatic tradition to one filled with repetition and wonder. And along the way came to terms with a God who is bigger than he thought.

Some quotes:

On structure:

“I need written prayers because otherwise I become too comfortable with my own haphazard version of grace.”

—–

On close-mindedness:

“We had heard stories of how these university types liked to belittle .god and the Bible. We were prepared to confront them. We had a wall of certainty as our hedge of protection, firmly constructed around our hearts and minds. I stopped listening. Because I disagreed with one part, I rejected the whole.”

—–

On the importance of faith together:

“It’s too big to do on our own,” Antonia said as we were crossing the street to Common Grounds. “The Bible, God, it’s too much to try and do on our own. It’s too much to pretend we know well enough in the first place. We need the conversation, the big table where everyone comes together, where we ask, ‘What kind of book is this?’ or ‘What is the character of God?’ or ‘What is the Eucharist?’ and then we need to listen. We need to breathe in the old and current and the possibility of the new.”

—–

On the same, but different, God:

“What I hadn’t quite understood at first, when it felt that Jesus had packed up the boxes, was that while the image of God I was seeing had changed, the pieces that portrayed the image hadn’t. For nearly two decades, the Holy Spirit had been bringing in pieces of a theological imagination.
[…] The vision was new. The way of seeing was new. The way of hearing was new. God remained the same.”

—–
Overall I appreciated this book and agreed over and again with what the author had to say. Though personally, at this point in my life, I won’t read it again since by the time I was through I had just about sworn off reading the spiritual memoir as a genre.

I was left with such an emotional hangover from dealing with someone else’s everything without the trust of a relationship that I ended up feeling somewhat resentful of the energy this book took for me to read (thus me taking four months break before writing my review…haha). But that is probably just me at this point in my life and I recommend Tables in the Wilderness to anyone who is interested.

Just be warned: it’s not a light and easy read. It dwells on the unknown qualities of God, tells of a completely personal journey, and is highly introspective.

So there you have it.

Have you read this book? Does it sound interesting to you?

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(I was provided with a copy of this book from bloggingforbooks.com in exchange for my honest review.)

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