Preface

This guy makes me nervous.

That’s the thing I love about his memoirs: I don’t know where he’s taking us, and that’s the richest kind of spiritual adventure.

This is such an important point that you won’t want to miss it. The Spiritual Wanderer isn’t Chicken Soup for the Soul. Oh, rest assured, your soul will thrive as you follow the twists and turns of Rodney’s travels—but he’s not promising chicken soup in every pot.

In fact, the centuries-old realm of spiritual memoir, which once was the private reserve of saints and sages, has been broken wide open in recent years by brave, new inspirational writers like Anne Lamott and Rob Bell. And now, in this new century with all the old boundaries falling, spiritual memoir is a very confusing and overcrowded genre! As Lamott and Bell moved outward in the scope of the life experiences they were willing to explore with readers, many of the popular secular memoirists—like David Sedaris and Augusten Burroughs—began occasionally exploring spiritual themes in their writings. Bookstores now are starting to look like O’Hare Airport on a snowy day in the Midwest: Every gate is jammed with would-be memoirists hoping the skies will clear and they’ll be the next Lamott, Bell, Sedaris or Burroughs to take off!

It’s a dangerous time to join the crowd, but the Spiritual Wanderer is a brave young voice. He may occasionally jolt you as he cuts to the core of our everyday lives. But, he’s also a polite young man. At times, you’ll want to drive to Michigan, throw your arms around him and give him a great, big hug! But he’s also honest—so you’re in for some surprises. Sometimes, he’s so relentlessly honest that you’ll begin to chuckle along with him at the pure pitch of the truth that he’s sharing. At one point, we actually thought about marketing his book as “The First Inspirational Book to Come in a Plain Brown Bag”—a joke you’ll understand when you eventually read Chapter 7. (No, don’t flip ahead! No peeking! Stop it!)

You’ll want to get to know Rodney step by step. What Rodney, Anne Lamott and Rob Bell all understand is that the three most urgent spiritual questions of our era aren’t cosmic conundrums about theology. They’re these: Why should I climb out of bed in the morning? How can I make it through another stressful day? And, ultimately, has anything in my life really mattered?

No kidding. These are our echoes of the timeless spiritual questions: Why are we here? How shall we live? And, is there enduring resonance of good and evil in the universe?

Rodney knows—we all know—that we’re pondering those questions all the time. And, when the Spiritual Wanderer wrestles with those questions, he’s not posing as a Zen master on a remote hilltop or a Trappist monk locked away in a medieval abbey. He’s a guy like you and me.

In the end, that’s why his story can’t be “Chicken Soup.” None of us live in the soup bowl, where every hurt is healed and every question is answered by the turn of the next page. In life, we’re often standing like Rodney, staring up at a streetlight that just blinked on at dusk, wondering if that might be the next light to guide us another step along the way.

—David Crumm, founding editor of ReadTheSpirit.com

 

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