Since 2017, Barry Casey has written a weekly essay for the Spectrum website. His first book, Wandering Not Lost: Essays on Faith, Doubt, and Mystery (Wipf & Stock, 2019) collects some of the best. Remembering the traditional “Morning Watch” that is familiar to many, I have found Casey’s book to be a sort of 21st century daily devotional.
The stories in this collection are varied. Many times, Casey invites the reader to imagine the perspective of a familiar Bible character. The lame boy Jesus healed, the older brother in the parable of the Prodigal Son, Jacob. A few times, Casey adapts a Bible story to occur in a modern context, inviting the reader’s imagination to picture herself in the middle of the situation.
Other stories use Casey’s experiences as bases to invite the reader to find spirituality in the seemingly ordinary bits of life. The book is not a memoir, since the reader does not really find out about Casey’s life except to know that he notices things, and he thinks. He approaches a spiritual journey with a sense of humility, curiosity, and honesty.
Casey’s multi-disciplinary prose shows familiarity with the works of many 20th century writers that I hold in high regard. For example, Carl Jung, Thomas Merton, Karen Armstrong, Walter Brueggemann. In this way, Casey’s collection of essays has helped me process reality in the light of other thoughtful writers.
Wandering, Not Lost shows an awareness of the postmodern environment in which we find ourselves. Without pronouncements, tired slogans, or emphasis of a grand scheme, Casey’s work illustrates the fluidity of life and the value of all perspectives. Pushing against cultural numbness, Casey asserts that optimal wandering will lead one to a state of guided innocence, as exhibited by the sheep in Psalm 23.
“The ‘wandering’ motif runs against our linear, goal-driven, deadline-clutching lifestyle, and while there may be a place for all of that, there can also be time for unfettered curiosity and the blessedness of wandering without necessity or obligation. Try it sometime: take a stroll through the Gospels or the Prophets or the Psalms, finding a text that lights up the imagination and following its references and associations until you reach a place you’ve not been to before” (p. 4).
I discerned no scheme in the sequence of the book chapters, except I did get a sense of meandering and questioning. Near the end, Casey shares some of the questions that he seeks to be shaped by:
“Where are You?” Genesis 3:10
“What does the Lord require of you?” Micah 6:8
“And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?” Matthew 6:27
“You of little faith, why did you doubt?” Matthew 14:31
“Who do you say I am?” Mark 8:29
Casey shows the reader that these questions cannot be answered with mere words. With vulnerability, Casey irons a space of commonality with others who seek to be disciples on an unfolding journey, and who cannot adopt a triumphant program of fact-sharing to be evidence of authentic discipleship.
Carmen Lau is board chair of Adventist Forum, the organization that publishes Spectrum.
Book cover image courtesy of Wipf & Stock.
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