“It is always a privilege to be invited to speak at a conference,” David Wells says in his newest book The Reluctant Disciple,
especially when it is in the province of Alberta in Canada. When I first went there someone listened to my presentation and told me I was ‘awesome’. It was moving, to have some tell you that you are awesome. Until you realize that in Canada everything is awesome. The coffee is awesome, the cookies are awesome, the weather is awesome, my accent is awesome, even the table decorations are awesome.
(This, by the way, is because things are 22.6% more awesome in Canada, which has been scientifically proven.)
The Reluctant Disciple is a very British book. Since the author lives in Plymouth in the U.K., this isn’t exactly a shock, but the tone of the book itself is completely British: wry, matter-of-fact and understated. Wells talks about getting into traffic jams with angry drivers and taking the subway, playing with his kids and picking them up from school. He writes self-deprecatingly about failing to get people to pay attention to his talks, and the one student who found him in a pub to tell him, very seriously, that he’d had his fly down the whole time while lecturing the student back in class. It’s the story of a normal life—doing grocery shopping, sitting in the breakroom at lunch with other teachers, getting a nosebleed.
It makes the moments of beauty in the book all the more transcendent. Wells has a profound, personal, earnest sense of faith that comes through in his writing: he talks about all the good things he’s been given in his life—home, a family, the opportunity to travel and teach—and how important it is to recognize those good things. In one passage he writes,
What happens next is hard to describe. It is a moment of grace that I haven’t conjured or deserved. Unannounced, I’m visited by a deep sense of joy. … I have an overwhelming sense of gratitude for the scene I’m looking at and it moves me to tears. My family [is] together, I think, and we are safe and alive. With the joy comes a tremendous sense of appreciation for what I already have. All I can do is say ‘Thank you,’ which I do.
The moment leaves him as soon as it comes, and he doesn’t try to hold onto it or feel it again. “I’d been given the gift to see briefly my life as it truly is,” he says, “a thing of great beauty.”
It can be hard to hold onto a meaningful faith, especially when you’re surrounded by saints and angels in church and temper tantrums, Wi-Fi connections not working and stacks of bills at home. The Reluctant Disciple is a book about making time for faith and recognizing it in the midst of our lives, and what faith should really be a its heart: an ordinary person seeing the extraordinary in everything, and trying to share it. “ ‘Awesome’,” says Wells, “is a dragonfly on the back of a child’s hand.”
-Gillian Robinson, Production Editor