Faith and Other Flat Tires by Andrea Palpant Dilley explores with dark honesty spiritual doubts that, like a constant drizzle, touched every decision in her life, including the one that caused her to tear off her fish decal from the back of her car.
Andrea writes a very transparent memoir. In the forward, Jerry Sittser writes, “Andrea’s memoir is both different and refreshing as her personality. She describes her background—family, mentors, church, relationships, experiences—with respect, affection, and realism, neither idealizing nor demonizing.”
Andrea pulled away from her church and her family as her doubts about God’s existence grew stronger. She was a missionary kid who struggled with the question of why suffering must occur. While teaching Junior High Sunday School, Andrea asked the students, “If you could ask God any question, any question at all, what would it be?”
Their responses echoed her doubt. It made my eyes tear as I pictured these teenagers writing these stark questions:
“Dear God, Why do my parents fight and hurt each other? I feel sad when they fight. I go and hide in the closet. Love, Joshua.”
“Dear God, Why don’t you talk back to us when we pray? Sincerely, Max.”
She shoved those letters into her NIV bible and wrote, “They sat trapped in the middle of the Psalms. In so many words, I was saying to God, Here, you deal with it. This is your problem. If you want my allegiance, make sense of this mess.”
The first half of the memoir had humor, but her words were dark. She explored those doubts she had as she reflected on the poverty she witnessed in Africa. Andrea expressed frustration in growing up all her young life in Africa to having to start over in the states. The culture shock helped to fuel the doubts. Where did she fit in? Her heart longed for Africa.
The memoir grows a little more cheerful like the light before the dawn as events and poor choices led Andrea back to the church she grew up in; to her family who loved her and waited to be allowed into her thought process.
The ending of the memoir doesn’t discount the doubts, but adds value to them. While I waited for the sun to rise in her novel, I understood her agony, wept when she wept, and saw how complex her doubt had become. She didn’t grow up in an abusive home. Andrea didn’t have a horrible childhood. Her doubts and unwise choices could not be pinpointed to a single cause, and I agree that doubt is healthy. It allows for the believer to grow and learn. I couldn’t be happier with the memoir. I gave it five stars and recommend it to anyone who struggles with the question, “Why bad things happen if God is loving?”
HopeFest AZ is taking place in downtown Prescott, Arizona on July 14. From noon to 2 PM, the Christian Writers Guild will have a booth. In that booth, you can meet some authors and me, and put your name into a drawing to win a copy from the publisher of Faith and Other Flat Tires, including a $5 Cupper’s Gift Card. You do not have to be present to win. I received my own copy of the book for the purpose of reviewing it.