I couldn't help but fall in love with this book. Rhoda Janzen's irreverent writing style, although shockingly, sometimes hysterically funny, is also touchingly insightful. I had to pause frequently throughout my reading to find someone who would listen to particularly intriguing passages. I am thrilled to be able to share some of these with my readers as well.
One of Rhoda's biggest struggles in the book is in returning to some of the practices she had abandoned as a young adult. Prayer was not something she had taken seriously in the past, but once she is diagnosed with serious "lady problems" she finds that people all over the world are praying for her. She writes of this time:
"As far as I could see, there were two ways to read this situation. Either all that prayer mattered, or it didn't And I needed to make up my mind."
As Rhoda's medical situation worsens, she turns to God for help. During the process, she tries to learn an "attitude of gratitude" - a new endeavor for her.
"Like most people when they first approach God, all I wanted was help. I was hoping God might swoop in and do the work for me. He didn't do that. But he did show me how to do the work myself. One day something clicked into focus...(I had) the tardy epiphany that I had spent a lifetime blaming other people for my own stuff. The sheer force of this revelation took my breath away. It changed everything. All of a sudden I saw that holding a grudge was a way to avoid confronting my own stuff."
Rhoda looks to her parents as an example of godly living. A Mennonite minister and his wife, they had "resolutely taken responsibility for their own happiness." Her father-in-law, on the other hand, had allowed life to beat him down. He didn't seem to find pleasure in anything.
"I tried to tell myself that the spirit of kvetch was understandable, given the onus of Albert's disability. But in my heart I knew that nobody has to be crankypants. Kvetching is a choice. You can choose to do it, or you can choose not to."
Throughout all of this, Rhoda and her boyfriend grow closer. Rhoda, who is recently divorced, after 15 years of marriage, is a little gun shy. She is concerned that although their relationship is going well, once they are married she and her new husband will tire of each other. She turns for answers in the New Testament story of a father who begs Jesus to heal his child. The father cries to Jesus, "I do believe; help my unbelief!"
"For me, the takeaway is that we don't need to be strong and faithful and firm in order to approach God. We can be an unholy mess, like the son, or a frustrated skeptic, like the dad. What a relief that we don't have to be good at religion in order to seek God! We don't even have to have a strong sense of belief. All we need is the desire to believe.
I decided to approach marriage as the dad approaches Jesus."
Don't expect a typical religious memoir. There are a few mild swear words throughout this book and it is anything but pious. But Rhoda's journey toward a deeper relationship with God and her fiancee' is a story that many of us can relate to. I too, feel a strong relationship with God, but often struggle with some of the teachings of the church. I really appreciated how Rhoda dealt with this conflict and deepened her faith in the process.
My only problem with the book was the occasional overuse of "large" words. Really, how many times should the word ineluctable used in one book? I had to pull out the dictionary frequently throughout my reading, which as my friends know, is highly unusual for me. However, not knowing these words will not detract from the story itself, so don't let this keep you away. I'm just a little obsessive that way.