Towards the end of my forty day "social media Sabbath," I received a copy of Esther Emery's memoir What Falls From The Sky about how she disconnected from the Internet for a year. I must admit, my first reaction was, "Lord, please don't be this your way of telling me that's what you want me to do next." Not only did she give up the Internet, but also her cell phone and debit cards. This is not a book about an experiment in simplicity but a deeply explored and deftly crafted story filled with honesty, tenderness, complexity and, ultimately, full of joy and hope.
What Falls From The Sky is more than the story of how one person disconnected from the Internet to find true connection in the community around her, it's an exploration of finding the glue of grace in everything: from piecing together a broken marriage, to seeing the humanity in her drug-addicted neighbors, to finding the beauty in broken guitars. Emery is a pilgrim who not only rediscovers her faith but watches as it unfolds in the silence of a life without the added distraction of emails, Facebook, blogging, or Twitter.
"If you've heard it said," Emery writes, "that God can be found in silence, or that silence can be found in God, then it is fair to say that I found both at the same time. I didn't always distinguish between the two, and sometimes I still don't. But the thing I came to realize was just how possible it is - even in this modern world - to give yourself up to both."
Having come out of a period in the wilderness of paying closer attention to my own habits, choices and becoming more attuned to God in the silence, this was a book that struck a chord with me.
She writes candidly about moving from addiction (to social media) to finding identity as an "absolute beginner.""I have found," Emery says, "the one thing I can always be good at, I can always be brilliant at this. I can always, no matter what, under any circumstances, be an absolute beginner." That sentence made me recall Christ telling his followers that they were to become like little children to enter the kingdom of heaven. We must, all of us, be "absolute beginners" seeking God in all things. We see the author discovering this truth as she returns to church, going to Nicaragua (a place she didn't even know where it was), learning to cook and open her home to invite others to the table (a very Christ-like act).
Emery does not hide her failures and struggles, but she does so in a way that draws the reader in and makes you feel like your sitting at her table, sharing in her story as if it were an intimate conversation. Like Henry David Thoreau at Walden, Emery is someone who does not want to live an unexamined life and, in so revealing her story, makes the reader want to more closely examine their own.
What Falls From The Sky is a journey that you will want to undertake.