The Seamless Life, Steven Garber. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2020.
Summary: A collection of short reflections around the integral relationship between our daily life and work and the love of God, accompanied by the author’s photography.
Steven Garber has written thoughtfully on the integration of faith and learning for students in The Fabric of Faithfulness, and of loving a broken word, joining with God’s love for his creation in living out our callings in Visions of Vocation. This is a very different book that rings the changes on the themes of these previous books. Garber writes:
This is a book about vocation, but a different book, a collection of essays and photos. An unusual effort for the publisher, it is new for me too. Rather than making an argument that is developed over scores of pages and many chapters, this one is a deeper and deeper reflection on one question: What does it mean to see seamlessly? To see the whole of life as important to God, to us, and to the world–the deepest and truest meaning of vocation–is to understand that our longing for coherence is born of our truest humanity, a calling into the reality that being human and being holy are one and the same life.
The book is a collection of short (2-3 pages each) essays that follow Garber across the country and through his personal history. We begin with a Madison Avenue company that consults with social entrepreneur non-profits seeking to do good work for the common good, later with one of the companies that are a client of the firm, situated in the Catskills, and then with faith leaders from different sectors of Pittsburgh committed to seeking the flourishing of their city. The journey continues across the country. These reflections are woven into ones on Garber’s own history, from restoring order to a house he and his son are renovating to a visit to a New Mexico livestock auction, bringing back memories of his cowboy grandfather who worked out his belief in God in the way he worked with competence and character.
He reflects on movies, and on words like vocation and occupation; the common root of cult, cultivate, and culture; and proximate. He writes beautifully of the growing friendship he has shared with his wife, Meg and thoughtfully about how joy and sorrow are linked in our lives.
All of this is accompanied by the photography of the author at the beginning of each essay. Many of these could be hung in a gallery. One I love, because it is a view etched in my own memories, is the skyline of Pittsburgh at night from Mount Washington.
This is a wonderful book to be read slowly, perhaps as it has been written over the course of many journeys. It speaks to our longing not only that our lives would matter but cohere. This is a good book to give as a graduation gift, but perhaps a better book for one in the middle of life wondering if the endeavors of every day connect to the deep and transcendent longings of us all. It is far better than the waste of a mid-life crisis. It is a book for those who both love and grieve the world and wonder how this might be held together–seamlessly.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher. The opinions I have expressed are my own.