God Hunting: A diary of spiritual discovery
Scripture Union £6.99
Church Times Bookshop £6.30
FOR a good many Christians, a serious obstacle to exploring the classic spiritual disciplines is integrating them with everyday life — especially if you happen to be a mother of small children. While prayer and Bible study can perhaps be squeezed into a spare five minutes, what about fasting? What chance a bit of proper solitude?
Jo Swinney set herself the task of trying one spiritual discipline per month, writing down her reflections in a journal-type format. Tackling six disciplines in total, she is unflinchingly honest about her struggles, as she tries to carve out time and appropriate space amid child-care, running a home, and giving birth to a second baby.
Helpfully, she suggests how adaptations can be made to ease the fit with daily routine, while preserving spiritual benefit. Unable to abstain from food because of pregnancy, for example, she chose to fast for a week each from fiction, hot drinks, media, and sugar.
Her determination is commend-able as she tries disciplines not naturally congenial to her, such as silence and solitude. There are hints of deeper personal issues relating to depression (covered, I gather, in an earlier book), which could usefully have been expanded to provide more context for her experiences here. She does, however, supplement her personal approach with short interviews with a range of individuals who share insights on the topic in hand, gleaned from their own spiritual explorations.
The book did feel somewhat condensed, covering much ground in 128 pages. I would have welcomed, in particular, more reflection on the relationship between discipline and grace. At times, authorial unflinching honesty sounded as if it was in danger of becoming authorial self-flagellation for being “not good enough”. The demands of discipline must be held in tension with the immeasurable love of God that holds us even as we — inevitably — fail.
Naomi Starkey is a commissioning editor for BRF, and edits and writes for New Daylight Bible-reading notes. She has also written Good Enough Mother (BRF, 2009).