Religious books I choose tend to be theological rather than devotional; this one brings a theological perspective and deep devotional insights. As ecumenical as I tend to be, I still spend most of my time in a mainline protestant bubble and hadn't previously known about Ronald Rolheiser. However, the endorsements he'd received from people I'd long been aware of convinced me Wrestling with God would be a good choice.
"Wrestling with God" clearly references the struggles of Jacob/Israel chronicled in Genesis 32 (p. 131; p. 166; on p.168, "...they can grasp Jacob's ladder (as the connection between earth and heaven) there (in the church building or structure))"; furthermore, the book opens with a quote from The Last Temptation of Christ by Nikol Kazantzakis and on p. 129 in my ARC Rolheiser expands on the concept with more Kazanatzakis, this time from his Report to Greco, with a monk's explaining he no longer wrestles with the devil because, "I have grown old now, and [the devil] doesn't have the strength ... I wrestle with God."
Chapter titles 1 through 7 each begin with the word "Wrestling ... with Self-Understanding – with Our Erotic Energies – with Fear – with Faith and Doubt ..." and other adversarial concerns most thoughtful people have—at least now and then. I particularly appreciate the author's reminding us of the difference between charity and justice in chapter 4, Wrestling with the Gospel Mandate to Reach Out to the Poor. Regarding many individual's struggles with Faith and Doubt, chapter 5 reminds us atheists and religious/spiritual nones – approximately 30% of the population of the USA and Canada – are very correct in rejecting the simplicity and nonsense of too much conventional belief that's little more than silly superstition. P. 118, "Atheism is a parasite that feeds on bad religion."
In chapter 7, Wresting for Faith Within a Complex Culture, an incident of a trusting parent during the 1950s pinning a medal of St. Thérèse of Lisieux on her son to trust him into healing [pp. 162-163] illustrates a relatively unsophisticated "porous" personality rather than one that's been shaped and "buffered" by contemporary culture. We can't return to any dimension of where we used to be, yet most of us need to claim aspects of a lifestyle that's more open and porous than we typically trust ourselves with.
It's impossible to highlight all the authors and scriptures that enrich and provide substance to this book of fewer than 200 pages. Ronald Rolheiser is a highly ecumenical professed religious Roman Catholic priest who writes from a long lifetime of being reshaped and refined by ... wrestlings. Although he necessarily write from a Christian viewpoint, by reading this book persons of any Christian tradition and from almost any religious persuasion – and those who claim none – could increase their understanding. Several times during my reading I recalled Jewel Kilcher's exquisite song, Absence of Fear, from her Spirit album; Jewel's words describe our need to encounter and know God's reality and presence:
...I make myself translucent
To let you in, for
I am wanting
And I am needing of you here
Inside the absence of fear
There is this hunger
This restlessness inside of me
And it knows that you're no stranger
You're my gravity
Wrestling with God is an excellent overview of ways we can encounter and know the reality and presence of God at various stages of our chronological and spiritual journeys. I'd love to pass it along to some of my friends who claim to be atheists or nones, but would they read it?
My Amazon Review: Spiritual and Theological Insights