Wait With Me, Jason Gaboury. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press/Formatio, 2020.
Summary: Proposes that the experience of loneliness is an invitation to grow in our friendship with God.
“To be human is to be lonely.” These words, spoken by Friar Ugo, the author’s spiritual director, open the book. Jason Gaboury, perhaps like all of us, experienced loneliness from childhood. He describes growing up amid domestic strife from which he ran away at one point, and that ended in divorce. Friar Ugo poses this question:
Have you ever considered . . . that the loneliness you’re experiencing is an invitation to grow your friendship with God?
That led to a journey to exploring how God meets people in their loneliness in scripture, and to a startling insight that “flips” his perspective of God.
In one-word titled chapters, Gaboury takes us through Abraham’s experience of leaving home into a new relationship with God, of the encounters of Hagar and Moses with God in the desert, of the grasping ambition of Jacob that found its resolution in the grasp of God, and the desolation encounter of Elijah in the silence where he hears God’s voice. We are invited to consider our griefs and losses in the grief of Ezekial for his people. We explore how God may call us into the loneliness of risk leading us to a new place of trust through the story of Esther. We learn with Mary what it means to respond to profound and disturbing news with a heart that ponders before God. We watch as the leadership of Saul the persecutor is deconstructed and formed anew as the follower of Jesus during three days of blindness after the Damascus road.
Gaboury mixes his own experiences with biblical reflections–the loss of an ambitious friend to suicide, stepping into church leadership after the forced departure of a pastor, and learning to follow afresh as God revealed the dysfunctions of the leadership of which he’d been a part.
All this leads to another conversation with Friar Ugo. Gaboury had been describing some of his insights from scripture of God meeting people in their loneliness, all the ways Jesus enters into our pain. Then:
Friar Ugo smiled, “I’m glad for the consolation you feel as you enter into the Scriptures, but I don’t think they’re the point. What if the loneliness that drives you to seek consolation was meant to expand your heart in compassion for Jesus?” He paused again. “You can’t love someone you don’t know, and you only know someone whose experience you’re willing to enter into with empathy and compassion.”
Gaboury proceeds to reflect on Jesus in Gethsemane asking the disciples to “wait with me” through his agonized prayer. Instead, they slept and abandoned Jesus, even before his arrest, trial, and forsaken death. Instead of considering how Jesus enters into our loneliness, Gaboury invites us to enter into the loneliness of Jesus, where Jesus ceases to be our therapist and we become his friends.
This is a startling insight for me, one I’m still weighing even as I write about this book. It reflects not only a different and true insight, but one that comes out of a deep reading of both scripture and life by the author in the company of a spiritual friend. Gaboury invites us to join that journey both in text and questions for reflection that invite us to sit with what we have read and to wait with God. But there is one more thing. Gaboury invites those transformed by waiting with God to compassionate witness to the God who invites us to wait with him in our loneliness–and His.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher. The opinions I have expressed are my own.