book report: Aftershock by Kent Annan (2011)

I brought this book along with me on vacation, but I'm an abnormal person. This is not light beach reading. This book is about a wrestling match between the author and God. It's not a flashy, staged, professional wrestling match with a certain outcome, but more of an amateur match, at the high school level. This is not an insult of Kent Annan's writing, but, if you've ever been to some of those high school matches, an analogy to the long and drawn out contests between kids who are evenly matched and make slow progress. If I may reach for a Biblical metaphor, this is like Jacob's long night of wrestling with God, from which he emerged, crippled but with a stronger faith (see Genesis 32).

The earthquake in Haiti, which killed his friends, yet also enabled others to fly to the US for expert medical care, and destroyed his friends' homes and churches, and fractured families, fractured his faith and crippled his soul. He found solace in the blues catalog of the Bible, the Psalms, Psalm 13 in particular. In the Psalms he finds freedom to complain to God. Sometimes his sentences are clipped, coming in gasps of pain and anger and frustration. Sometimes he writes with hope. He learns from the Haitians, who worship more intensely after the quake. While he brings physical aid, they bring aid to his soul by their deep faith. What he learns about faith has helped me. He writes,
Faith like this is a kind of following, and following is, of course, trying to get closer to something or someone (or at least trying not to fall any farther behind). I can follow Jesus even if he sometimes seems elusive or disappears over a mound of rubble. Faith that doesn't keep seeking dies, and the distance between God and us seems to expand. If I still have a measure of hope and gratitude, I can follow, though I'm full of fear or doubt, though I'm angry or disappointed. p.96
This is a short book, but a not a shallow one. It's not for those who fear an honest wrestling with God, that sometimes loses perspective, because the view is so close, and all that can be known is the stink of sweat and the grunts of pain. This book is also for those who want to help Haitians, as he is donating all his proceeds to Haitian Partners.


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