Going into a job interview, I used to worry about over-selling myself. At some point, I decided that I would rather lose out on a job opportunity than to suffer the indignity — six months down the road — of wondering if my boss was wishing she could find that stellar employee she had thought she was hiring. I’ve tried to have the same mindset with my family, thinking that it would be better to have them actually know me than to have them be impressed with me (although I wouldn’t complain if both could be true). The fact that I attend a small church, webbed through and through with relationships, also requires a high degree of congruency. The person I am when I’m sitting in the library teaching the Bible had better be the same person who stands in the parking lot and hollers at her (and sometimes other people’s) children!
This connection with other people and this vulnerability of being fully known was missing from Donald Miller’s life. As one of the eleven people in the universe who has not read Blue Like Jazz, I approached Scary Close with tabula rasa. Even so, I found the tale of his meandering quest for intimacy and the memoir-like account of his courtship with his wife to be refreshing and redemptive because, ultimately — Hooray, he gets it!
Donald Miller spent his early adult years building a career based on an image that worked well for him, but he was brought up short when a wise counselor asked, “How else will we connect with people unless we let them know us?” It is profoundly lonely to realize that all your friends love an image that you have projected. The scary question always lurks: “What if they knew the real me?”
Miller helps his readers to see that most of us hide our truest selves beneath an “outer ring” or a character that we learn to play in order to win or to “deserve” love and acceptance. In his case, humor and intelligence made him feel powerful and professionally successful, but his dating life “was a death spiral of codependency and resentment.” Letting go of his need to be impressive and to control every atom in the universe was necessary in order for Miller to become the other healthy person in his relationship with Betsy. To expedite the process, he decided to “hang out with better people,” and soon found that he also wanted his work style to evolve from self-involved introvert to collaborative team-player.
As Miller interacted with his fiancée’s family, he realized the same principle bears out in family life: transparency within the family is a predictor of emotional health and happiness in children. To this end, Scary Close offers help for recognizing and ending manipulative behavior, overcoming fear of intimacy, and avoiding the loss that comes from “careful” living.
Two concepts from Scary Close flashed like comets across my relational sky:
1. All relationships are teleological; i.e. “going somewhere; living; alive and moving and becoming something.” Married for nearly twenty-five years, I don’t want to find one day that we’ve begun to coast downhill in our relationship just because we have taken it for granted and stopped working at it.
2. No human relationship will ultimately satisfy my heart, and even intimacy with God will not yield ultimate fulfillment on this planet. To expect otherwise is to deny the reality of our present condition of “groaning within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body,” (Romans 8:23). In the meantime, however, until that soul-healing is complete, it is wonderful to walk beside another fallen creature in understanding and acceptance, and to see in our children the fruit of having let them become scary close.
This book was provided by Nelson Books through BookLookBloggers in exchange for my unbiased review.