Saturday, June 22, 2013

Excerpt: Finished Manuscript



Fr. Joseph Huneycutt and I finished the final (probably semi-final) draft of our book project. It is at our "test readers" now.  We'll do a final/final edit based on their proofreading and suggestions, then it goes to the publisher.  

I was originally just going to illustrate Fr. Joseph's text.  We spent a weekend together several months ago discussing the project and pretty much checking each other out (we had never met in person).  We both decided the other was "the real deal".  As we talked, the vision for the book took some dark turns.  The more we talked, the darker the theme of the material became.  We've both lived long enough and done enough sinning and pastoral care to know being a Christian is damn hard and it isn't nearly as pretty as our Sunday faces show.   We wanted to address the valley of the shadow of death and not put a smiley face on it (though there is some humor in the book).  

We wanted it to be from an "Orthodox perspective" but something that any Christian could pick up and not feel like they were being slapped around with Orthodox apologetics. He ran it by John Maddex and told him up front, this isn't Conciliar Press's brand of stuff. John said, "Bring it."  (We haven't submitted the manuscript, so there is no contract, just an approved proposal.)

By the end of the weekend, we both were confident we and the other could check our egos at the keyboard, so we decided to jointly author also.  We've written, edited, suggested, added to and subtracted from each others' work. I have to say, (and those of you who know me know I don't say this about clergy often or lightly), "Behold a priest in whom there is no guile." It has been effortless to work with Fr. Joseph. 

This is an excerpt (with illustration) from one of the first chapters represents the general theme and tone of the book:  

At some point, whether in the act or after the fact, we come to the  realization of how far we’ve fallen,  how weak we are,  how much light we have closed our eyes against, how chaotic our universe has become, the depth and stench of the filth we are immersed in.  No rationalizations suffice.  No resolutions made in the middle of the night are convincing. No guilt is motivating enough. No consequences are fearful enough.  The grip of our addiction to our own vomit becomes an inescapable reality.  It is when sin is an inescapable reality that God becomes equally inescapable.  It is then that sweet mercy beyond ourselves is our only hope, our only desire, our last resort. ...

When we have wrestled and lost, eaten the apple and vomited it up and eaten it again, fallen and see no human hand to help us get up again, St. Paul succinctly sums up our experience, “Wretched man that I am! Who will free me from this body of death?” (Rom. 7:24)  

This is the turning point, the “metanoia”. When we see ourselves so clearly that we can only see God is the moment we do the desperate thing.  We will crawl on our hands and knees through the crowd to touch a hem of a dirty robe with an unclean hand, start out in hope on the long walk toward home smelling like a pig, annoy a crowd by shouting “Have mercy on me!”, and shamelessly throw ourselves in front of God and wash His feet with our tears no matter who is watching and judging.  No humiliation, no distance, no commandment is too great to hope to be freed from ourselves.

Man calls this “desperation”.  

God calls it “faith”. 



14 comments:

Reader John said...

Congratulations. I did not recall that you were doing a book. Tell it like it is!
Father Joseph was one of my mentors on my way to Orthodoxy on the old "eolist." My politics, ironically, have become notably less conservative (I prefer to think that "conservatism" has been hijacked, but that's a hard sell so I'll go with how most would perceive it) since I became Orthodox, and Fr. Joseph's efforts at OrthodoxyToday have sometimes left me cold. But disagreement over politics cannot reduce the debt I owe him.

Aaron Taylor said...

Well said, Steven. I look forward to the book.

Fr Joseph Huneycutt said...

Ha! I was, indeed, on the old EOList years ago. But, to my knowledge, have never had anything on OrthodoxyToday (nor venture much into politics). Regardless, thanks for the note ...

elizabeth said...

Looking forward to hearing more about this! Sounds like a blessing for all involved. :) (authors and readers alike).

R. said...

Damn hard, yep. Sounds damn good.

Karl El-Koura said...

I'm looking forward to it. Wonderful images in the excerpt.

Drewster2000 said...

Tell me where to buy the book. You had me at "not feel like they were being slapped around with Orthodox apologetics..."

But seriously even your introduction to the excerpt was penned by someone who's ready to crawl across the ground to touch the hem of the robe of God. THAT is the kind of person I want to be in communion with forever and ever, no matter what their politics.

ofgrace said...

If it is true (to borrow from a line from a musical) that "a spoonful of humor makes the medicine go down," it seems to me you guys are the perfect choice for the job. Looking forward to the book.

Also, ditto Drewster's 2nd paragraph.

Anam Cara said...

Hoping it is published soon! I want to read it, not just put it in the TBR (to be read) stack.

Margaret said...

Thank you so very much for posting this! I've been waiting probably impatiently for some word on what you and Fr. Joseph have come up with. God be praised!!! The excerpt you've included here is a blessing to my heart and balm to my soul. I look forward to reading the book. God bless you both and all involved in getting this published!

Brian Candow said...

When I saw the hand reaching to the hem I could not but think of a quote I recently read from Patrick Henry Reardon's book, "The Jesus We Missed." Commenting on the story of the woman with the 'issue of blood,' he says,"Jesus then declares the word of personal reassurance, which begins the healing of her soul: "Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace." It is legitimate to wonder what the lady thought about this reference to her faith. She probably felt she had no faith at all. In her case, faith had disguised itself as desperation. Yet weak as it was - no larger than a mustard seed - this faith had filled the finger she placed on the fringe of Jesus' robe. It had been sufficient; the mountain was moved and thrown into the sea."

Blessings, Brian

John said...

Can't wait to read it. Do you have a prospective title yet?

GretchenJoanna said...

The book can't be published too soon for me! I'll have my eyes open for it.

Syrian Fire said...

I think it was Hauerwas that said "sentimentality is the enemy of religion" or something along those lines. The point is we need books that are not sentimental at all, but honest and authentic.