take this bread: a radical conversion, by sara miles.
bob carlton recommended this book, and i’m usually fairly quick to purchase and read his recommendations. he was right on this one: one of the best left-of-center spiritual memoirs i’ve read, ever.
sara miles is a self-described liberal, an intellectual journalist who spent much of her life covering wars from the side of the oppressed (often in stark contrast to u.s. policy). she grew up in a staunchly athiest home (though both of her parents were children of missionaries, which ends up playing into her story in surprising and deeply satisfying ways), and was, as she says, the last person her friends would have expected to start talking about jesus.
sara walked into a san francisco church one day — called, one might way; compelled, she wasn’t sure why — and took the eucharist. and something clicked, in that moment. she had an encounter with jesus that she was never able to dismiss or shake off. eventually, her connection with jesus became a compelling call to feed others, as she was fed. sara started a food pantry, literally ON the alter of her extremely nervous church. the book walks through her multiple conversions, and those of the people around her, many of them already professed christians.
the comparisons to anne lamott are easy (especially to anne’s first spiritual memoir, traveling mercies). both are brilliant with words; both are liberals from san francisco, who grew up in book-loving, athiest, intellectual homes; both are liberal in every sense of the word; and both are deeply in love with jesus and passionate about following his lead. this — i think — is what seperates both anne and sara from classical liberals, who spent a good deal of their time distancing themselves from jesus.
but sara miles and anne lammott are not the same. sara doesn’t have annie’s wit, which, while i absolutely adore annie’s wit, makes this book somewhat more compelling, and a bit less like a collection of witty, liberal, jesus-y essays. if annie’s “theme” is her self-loathing and insecurity, sara’s strong-willed theme is: food. food weaves its way through every chapter of the book: from her childhood, to her experiences as a chef in new york, to her connections with people in the third world, to her intitial and ongoing experience with jesus, to her establishment of one, then many, food pantries. it’s hard not to read this book and not simultaneously hanker for a chunk of some cheese you can’t pronounce, and want to give that cheese to someone who wouldn’t otherwise experience their next meal.
wonderful, wonderful reading. challenging at points. highly edible. deeply nourishing.