An earnest, if sometimes banal, account of one man’s struggle to get right with his Christian faith.
Early on in the story of his spiritual journey, Conger quotes the prophet Isaiah in describing the type of Christian he no longer wants to be—“These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.” For Conger, Christianity isn’t about following hollow rules; it’s about developing an intimate, life-transforming relationship with the living Jesus. He distinguishes between a lazy “cruise ship” belief and “battleship” Christianity, and, every day, he seeks to take up his sword and “join others on the front lines for Christ.” The book tracks his efforts to do so—by going to church, by leading Christian men’s groups and by testifying to Jesus’ truth in his words and actions. Not that the path is always straight or smooth. Conger also shares stories of personal hardship—loss of loved ones, marital strife and health crises. The most dramatic of these is his brush with death while undergoing open-heart surgery. But while all of these challenges make faith hard, he argues that life’s rough stretches are tests given by God that help the devout strengthen and “refine” their belief. Conger writes of his life, his family and his religion in clean, unaffected prose. And if one of the hallmarks of the Christian faith is humility, his modest, unpretentious style is a sign of his spiritual progress. The book’s only weaknesses are its longer, autobiographical non sequiturs. We could do without irrelevant tales of a lost dress coat, or a family trip to Lake Michigan—but only because the rest of Conger’s narrative seems so focused, and so important.