I’ve read most of Donald Miller’s books – they are quick and easy reads (I highly recommend them when you are on vacation and your mind is relaxed.) I’ve found with his books that, like with any memoir, it’s best not to go with an expectation of solid conclusions and deep theological truths. That’s not the purpose of a memoir nor is it the purpose of Don’s work. He writes in the abstract; though you wouldn’t necessary get that from a first read – because he tells stories. And he’s really good at it. But he rarely “lands the plane” and tells you what truth to extrapolate from his work. I’m ok with that.
When I heard his new book was about intimacy and the relationships with those around you, I wondered how this might be a departure from the memoir genre. Don is great at asking questions… at wondering… at leaving things open-ended. I love this kind of reading, though it’s certainly isn’t for everyone. But books on intimacy and relationships (Safe People comes to mind, as I’ve just finished it) are very concrete and pretty formulaic. Not how I would describe his previous work.
So far, Scary Closedoes read like a memoir. And there are a few things left open-ended. But there is also a great deal of practical and concrete advice and thoughts that are a departure from his previous books. But make no mistake – this is not a bad thing. There isn’t a formula that Don sets up, no step-by-step process, but his thoughts are something a person can hold onto. They are not nebulous questions thrown out there into space that you find yourself running toward, arms reached out, swiping frantically to catch.
He has found a way to the middle, and I’ve often pictured myself with my feet firmly planted on the ground while words and questions and truth all gathered around me. Some waiting to be caught. Some entering my heart immediately. This is really the beauty of Scary Close.
After reading the forward and the first two chapters, I’d cried three times. Not so much in grief, though there was an element of it in my tears.
But mostly in the recognition that people are hard. That grace is lovely. And we don’t try enough to engage with either. This really seems to be the heart of what I’m taking away from Don’s book.
Bob Goff, who wrote Love Does, is one of Don’s closest friends and wrote the introduction. Goff oozes grace. This is a man who knows how to love and you can simply see that in his words. He tells a story of how Don placed himself in the front door of their hut while in Uganda, during the night, because abductions were a very scary reality where they were staying. He put himself between the harm and his friend. (Yes, tears.)
Then in a very quick author’s note, Don sets us up by telling us something I did no know about him – that he lived for applause. He lived for the approval and affection of others based on his success in life (or his humor, which is revealed later.) His life was a performance and that built up a wall. “Applause is a quick fix,” he writes. “And love is acquired taste.”
Seriously… guys. We’re not even to the first chapter.