Lewis B. Smedes, My God and I; A Spiritual Memoir (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003)
Lewis Smedes, long time and much loved professor of Fuller Theological Seminary, finished this short memoir just before his untimely death on December 19, 2002, at the age of 81. Thank God he did. Smedes was a rare person who combined a number of important traits that most of us can only hope to emulate — scholarly erudition, a deep empathy for the ambiguities of the human condition, a passionate Christian faith, the heart of a pastor, and superb skills in writing for the average person on the street and in the pew. His book Forgive and Forget; Healing the Hurts We Don’t Deserve, for example, sold over a million copies, and unlike many popular Christian books, his had important things to say.
In twenty-seven short, crisp chapters (about 7–8 pages each), Smedes takes us through the successive stages of his life journey, beginning with his grandparents and ending with his retirement years. Smedes struggled with faith. I am reminded of the wag who observed, “my faith does not seem to be very strong, but it appears to be permanent.” In his final chapter he affirms the dreams that he maintained to the end, what I would call kingdom hopes—of a world without HIV, of children who do not go to bed hungry, and so on. He also affirms his deep and passionate desire for these things to come true. But his faith, he writes, was always “laden with doubts” because of the huge disparity between that for which we hope and the realities that we see and experience. At the end, writes Smedes, he found himself “at the station called hope.” And what better testimony than to write that “I liked the last miles of the journey better than the first. But, since I could not have the ending without first having the beginning, I thank God for getting me going and bringing me home. And sticking with me all the way” (p. 178).