I have a running list of all the stuff that is wrong about my life. The list includes everything from “Do I always have to be the one to unload the dishwasher?” to family worries to geopolitical concerns. I am nothing if not an equal-opportunity Eeyore.
I think that’s why Caryn Dahlstrand Rivadeneira’s Grumble Hallelujah: Learning To Love Your Life Even When It Lets You Down (Tyndale, 2011) resonated with me. After a kitchen-floor breakdown she calls her “dark midafternoon of the soul”. Rivadeneira began working through her own list of things in her life that weren’t turning out the way she’d imagined they should. As she squared off with issues like control, expectations about how God is supposed to work, presumption and judgement, she began to learn to let go of her list and open herself up to what God was doing in her life instead. The journey toward acceptance isn’t a simple “just pray this prayer and it’ll be all better” in her world (or in mine, or probably yours, either). Instead, Rivadeneira offers us a mix of memoir and rooted-in-Scripture information designed to help readers name and face the temptation to wallow in a molasses sea of sin, self-pity and brokenness.
Her chapter on jealousy struck a deep chord with me, in large part because she aptly described the way the Green-eyed Snake works in my vocational world:
If you don’t know any writers, let me clue you in. We are needy, insecure, selfish little beasts. Wonderful, don’t get me wrong. But still, as a rule, we have issues.Beyond that, essentially, we’re all competitors. In a world where numbers float between 250,000 and one million for new books published each year, all fighting for shelf space, media attention, and the eyes of overwhelmed readers, this creates competition – even among the best of friends…(this) creates a situation rife for another needy, insecure, selfish little competitive beast to slither in, holding up a piece of glittering fruit. More often than not that fruit is envy and comparison.
She offers solutions that don’t come across as didactic Pronouncements about how to fix yourself, but are couched in the kind of invitations a Savior who says things like “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest” would give. One running thread through the book is about the effects of her parents’ divorce, and Grumble Hallelujah’s final chapter ties that thread to an unforgettable, heartbreaking and ultimately redemptive moment in another room in Rivadeneira’s home. It left me with tears in my eyes because of its beauty and God’s faithfulness to her – and to me.
The title may give you the idea that this a laff-a-minute, lightweight read. It’s more than that. Though this relatable book has plenty of deft touches of humor, Grumble Hallelujah is a book with solid content that would be especially appropriate for women who are in the trenches of their childrearing years. Recommended.
*I received a review copy of this book from the publisher.