Carolyn Weber takes readers through a journey of living in the present. Not because everything was going so well that she wanted to capture the unambiguous happiness of life, but because even in the pain – which she details through several physical and emotional struggles – there is something to realize as a gift beyond ourselves.
I was drawn to her story – that of an English professor in the throes of tenure, sabbatical, publishing, raising a family, and seeking to follow God. Into this story she weaves poetry and prose – Chesterton, Lewis, Donne, Coleridge, Blake, Keats, Sayers – along with scripture – Daniel, Jonah, Jesus, Peter, Paul, Mary. These layers provide a rich context for living in the present.
Here is a woman who unknowingly ruined an interview because she stated that her motivation for teaching was “To love my students into understanding” (49). The interviewers neither understood what she meant, nor wanted to understand. Still she continued to live out this mission not only in the classroom, but within her family and through her writing.
Here are just a few snippets of Weber’s voice that guides readers through the narrative.
- “I couldn’t afford therapy so I started writing.” (39)
- “When it comes to our worries and gifts and talents and abilities, we give what we can in him [Christ], through him, and to him” (56)
- “Irreverence begins in not paying attention. And yet, I think, it can also stem from counting too often and too closely.” (61)
- “Because we serve such an extraordinary God, we are called to live in difference.” (123)
- “Liminal space – living on the threshold where the present meets eternity” (130)
- “I didn’t see that it wasn’t about wrapping my head around anything, but about having the Holy Spirit wrap around me.” (162)
- “reading is a trinitarian act” (164)
In this marvelous narrative journey, she also speaks of the extraordinary u-turn friends who drop everything in the moment to be present in the difficult times of life. Of God’s relentless work of refining us until we see that he is the answer instead of anything else in our lives. And of changing the ubiquitous phrase carpe diem (seize the day) to carpe Deum (seize God). The first focuses on our presence in the present, while the other recognizes the source of the present. As we grasp God we can fully live in the moment no matter what is happening around us.
In later chapters Weber reveals a new challenge in her life and the struggles she faces seeking to see the gifts of the present. The book ends not with a resolution to this struggle – but with a grasping of God no matter the outcome. Into this unfinished story readers aren’t able to rest in a resolved ending, but, more importantly are able to hold onto God, the real hope for their present.