SARAH PARKINSON’s searingly honest spiritual autobiography is at once more and less than it claims to be. It’s presented as being an exploration of the moment when a deep personal bereavement leads to the absence of God.
What Parkinson has actually written is a reflective journal of her whole life, from her gentle conversion as a university student through her wholehearted obedience to God as mediated through a definite and prescriptive form of Church, and on into a lifelong game of hide-and-seek with God.
Everything that she writes is rooted in her own recognisable experience as a Christian, as a wife and mother, as someone who comes close to losing her grip on herself under the pressure to be everything to those around her. While the specifics are unique and personal, the journey that she undergoes, the questions that she is brave enough to ask, and the hesitant conclusions that she comes to are widely applicable.
Each stage of her journey is framed through a hard-won poem about her relationship with God.
You are not who I thought
I needed you to be.
I have stumbled into thick fog,
and cannot tell whether
it is the sun or moon that rises:
the grey air shrouds my eyes.
They are poems to be prayed through, perfectly illustrating the unfathomable God whom Parkinson discovers in the silent darkness when she still knows that God is there, but cannot get him to turn and answer. At the heart of the book is the question: If my identity is found in God, then who am I, what is left, when God will not speak to me or respond?
This book would be of comfort to anyone struggling to pray or to see God with the old clarity that they used to. Because of her honesty and approachability, Parkinson makes an engaging and sympathetic companion.
We are left envious of those who have Parkinson as a spiritual director, since she so clearly knows the paths of the heart and has plumbed something of the mystery of God. Like Jacob at the Jabbok, she is scarred from her wrestling and yet somehow more certain of God.
The Revd Richard Lamey is the Rector of St Paul’s, Wokingham, in Berkshire.
Searching for a Silent God
Sacristy Press £8.99
Church Times Bookshop £8.10