I read Lewis Smedes “autobiography” over the weekend.  It was entitled “My God and I”.  It’s a good read.  It’s not really a long, historical, data filled piece.  It’s more of a series of vignettes from his life filled with his personal reflections of the events.  Kind of a “this happened then, and here is what I thought about at the time, and here is how I think about it now” approach to life and history.  It’s quite engaging. (For those that aren’t familiar with the name, Lewis Smedes was a long time professor at the Fuller Theological Seminary, California.  He passed away a few years ago so the final chapters of the bio are actually penned by his daughter.  There’s poignancy in those chapters).

Smedes was not a pulpiteer.  He was an author but really only reluctantly wrote–and only began to write after his early 50’s.  His writing is personable, crisp and consumptive.  You can read it easily and digest it well—and realize fully after consumption that you’ve found some very good nutrition.

Things I took away from the reading?

1.  His emphasis through the title–“My God, and I”.  There is an order there and Smedes intentionally places it as such.  It’s not a pious attempt to be spiritual but rather a bold, strong statement about God.  In his life, Smedes felt very much secondary to the dominant plan of God and saw himself as a participant in the drama.  Yes, there was choice.  And there was improvisation.  But Smedes saw his journey in the grander scheme of the Master Captain.  I like that. I like to think I am in control.  It’s both a strength and a besetting sin.  Sometimes I think God says “it’s a free one, make your choice here and enjoy either direction.”  But then there are times when God says “here is the way it is, manage it as best you can”.

2.  His candour about his own foibles.  Well, he was surely honest.  The sins of the world were not covered up.  He wasn’t a despicable, destructive, criminalistic human being.  But he wasn’t immune to behaviours that after the fact he was clear to admit were not constructive.  We all wish we were saintly, angelic, and devoid of activities or verbal expressions that are counter productive.  But the truth is we are not.  What do we do with them?  And how do we manage them when they manifest themselves in our being?  I recently talked with a friend and she lamented her behaviour and words of late.  Yes, she had a point of sadness in her story.  But her willingness to take responsibility and hurt and personal ownership–well, it was self destructive.  My advice was to her was simple–“yep, you messed up, can’t deny it.  Admit it, apologize, ask for a mulligan, and move on. Chances are you’ll make another mistake in the next week or two or three. We are human”.  Unfortunately, we sometimes associate with people with precious little understanding of humanity and certainly twisted views of divinity.  Smedes seemed to have a handle here.

3.  His understanding of the journey.  In his final chapters he talks about his “friendship with God” or lack thereof.  He comes from the Calvinistic tradition which has certain emphases.  But he also had roots in the evangelical pietistic movement.  From early days he had embedded in his soul that “we are to have a close personal relationship with God” and for nearly 65 years he felt his relationship with God was not as a friend but more of a servant.  He retired and figured that the last season of his life would allow him to cultivate friendship–but it never came.  He always saw himself as a “servant” responding to the Master.  I know that Abraham was described as a “friend of God”.  But not everyone in Scripture carried that description.  I think sometimes we overstate the nature of our journey with the Living God and imagine that one man’s experience is universal for all followers of the living God.   I resonated with his description of “following God in obedience”.

Good read.  Made me think.  Made me relax.