I wasn’t so sure about it when I picked it up. The book had a lot going for it. I mean, Donald Miller recommended it, even going on tour with the author. And Tony Hale, only my favorite awkward younger brother on Arrested Development, gave it high accolades, said the back of the book. And I’m always up for a new memoir, especially one with the word Snarky in the title.
Susan Isaac’s Angry Conversations with God: A Snarky But Authentic Spiritual Memoir had to grow on me a bit. I wasn’t too keen on it at the start. The writing is incredibly informal, and I didn’t know how long I could follow the premise: a woman brings God to marriage counseling. The book flip-flops between the actual, mostly chronological narrative and a fictionalized transcript of Isaac’s counseling sessions with God. It seemed kind of hokey to me, honestly.
But the more I read about Isaac’s life, the more I saw myself in her story. She struggled with addiction, relationships, the church, but mostly she struggled with herself as an artist and how her creativity fit into God’s plan. In the book, she calls it “playing her note,” that feeling when she’s doing exactly what it is she has been created to do. I completely understood her frustration with feeling like God has given her a passion but she is unable to do anything with it, while at the same time, things are just falling into place for those around her. Isaacs has had a long life full of both personal and professional successes and failures, and she is brutally honest about them all. I respect that, and I ache for that honesty in my own life.
A key point comes in at the end of the book concerning doing what you love “for fun and for free.” If you focus on that, then you’ll never be disappointed with your lack of financial success. You’ll simply be excited and blessed by all that does come to you. I mean, it’s what I’m doing right now. Granted, it’s mostly because I’m a slacker and completely disinterested in finding markets (i.e. putting in the work to find markets), but I’m glad to do this right now for fun and for free.
The other thing that has stuck with me is the idea of a transcripted conversation with God. I don’t know what mine would look like. Isaac’s Jesus is her buddy, God her sarcastic and hurtful older father/brother. She’s clear to point out that these are manifestations of her own views of God at a particular time, views distorted and damaged by the people around her and the church that had hurt her. As the book went on, she grew to know God more and his voice became less snarky.
I think my God is a older figure, slightly aloof and distant, cocky, a Sherlock Holmes type. And Jesus is the guy who knows me, knows what I’m going through. That wouldn’t be a good story at all. But I have been having a few more honest conversations with God lately. I mean, like Isaacs, I know I can’t quit him (accidental Brokeback Mountain reference). He’s so much part of my life, my psyche, my being, that I can’t just eliminate him and I never will. I can’t imagine looking at a tree and thinking, Man, that’s pretty. I’m so glad science figured out where it came from so there is no wonder at all. But at the same time, there are some things I really don’t get. I had a bit of a spat with God over a story in the Bible, where Abram lies about Sarai being his wife, and the Pharaoh basically takes her as his wife and Abram gets a lot of great stuff. When it all comes out, Abram gets a tongue-lashing from Pharaoh, but gets to keep all of his goods. God doesn’t even reprimand Abram; he instead gives Pharaoh diseases for sleeping with Sarai. And what does Sarai get out of this deal? To be forced to sleep with a man who is not her husband. Where’s her reward, and where’s Abram’s punishment? God is strangely silent on this issue in the text, and it’s a plot hole to me for sure.
But the more I talk aloud to God in my car, the more I get it and the more calm I get, even after I start crying because I don’t get it. Because God’s just glad I’m talking to him. I can feel his pleasure at me asking him questions or shouting at him or crying in his ear. He’s okay with all of that, because it means I’m trying and I’m talking. I don’t have to get it. He’s God, I’m not. But I know he’s glad for our conversations…snarky or not.