I didn’t expect to like this book. I started it only because the author is a fellow board member at RCWMS and reading it seemed like the congenial thing to do. Plus, the title caught my attention. Erin and I have at least one thing in common; I, too, am a commitment phobe. Unlike Erin, though, I stopped going to church during my college years. And, while Erin can provide instructive insights about hipsters, I am more likely to be consulted about hippies. Regardless, once I read a few pages I was hooked.
Erin writes about the church, but her words also speak to the larger challenge of choosing to belong in a society that over values independence and individuality. The book shows us how to bring awareness, and the positive form of disillusionment that she introduces in the Preface, to the decision so that belonging becomes part of our humanity rather than an exercise in conformity. She deeply explores how to balance belonging with personal authenticity.
Here’s how she describes her journey: “Mine is a story of trying to belong to the church, to my husband, friends and strangers, too. It’s a story about enduring community when it’s awkward, when small talk suffocates and the preacher gives bad sermons and the suffering of others is intrusive. It’s about choosing to trust people, not because they’ve earned it but because you want to.” (17)
The book is filled with engaging stories culled from Erin’s life, stories filtered through the big issues named in her title. It is the story of Erin’s decision to commit to a church congregation and her struggles to live up to that commitment. It is the story of her move to a new city and the challenges she faces in making a life there. It is the story of the partnership she is building and sustaining with her husband.
Parker Palmer, who wrote the book’s Foreword and who has been one of my favorite writers and thinkers for a very long time, calls the book “lively, insightful, and beautifully written.” I completely agree.