Another of my Christmas reads - after Dazzling Darkness - was Everything I know about God I learned from being a Parent by Veronica Zundel. After the spiritual, challenging and insightful read from Rachael Mann, this was a different book.
Actually, this book title is a misnomer - in many ways, it doesn't talk about God. It is a book about the struggles of parenthood, especially parenting a "difficult" child. In terms of this, it is a good read, and a valuable insight into the struggles of parenting. As a parent of two boys, of a broadly similar age to Veronicas, I know that parenting is a very difficult and challenging job. I have no idea why anyone would take it on - except that it is also incredibly fulfilling.
But what about learning about God from this? In truth, Veronica has learned a lot about God from this experience, but that is almost irrelevant. From reading her struggles, and relating her difficulties to some of my own experiences, I can learn something about God. For me, it shows far more how I can learn from life experiences, from what I go through.
What is interesting is that the two books do have something in common. They are both telling individuals stories, about how they have experienced all sorts of difficulties and problems, and the message of how these individuals have found God through their experiences. In the end, there is an important lesson for everyone through these stories.
The truth is that we can all see more of God through those experiences that we go through. The difficult times in life are ones that can be times that we can see something new about God. As for Veronica, when we experience being a parent, we can get new insights into what God as a parent really means. With a child, we can understand more about what Jesus meant to the Father. As with Rachael, the challenges of living with a body that is wrong gives insights into what the body means, what an incarnated God is about.
In truth, everything I know about God I have learned from life - the good times and the difficult times, the parenting and the being parented, the times I have felt comfortable and the times I have felt out of place.
This is not a naive argument that minimise the difficulty of the challenging times. It is not about saying "oh look, a great learning experience". It means that when we look back at the difficult times, we might be able to see something new there.
But still, sometimes, life sucks.