You know how, if you watch a lot of TV, you see certain character actors show up over and over as guest stars in different shows? When I see that, it reminds me of the fact that for every big star in TV- and movie-land, there are hundreds of working actors, making a living booking a job here and a job here, never the headlining stars, just acting regularly and bringing home paycheques.
Then that reminds me that for every one of those working actors, there are hundreds more just aspiring to get to that level — maybe getting the occasional acting job but never stumbling into one steady gig, or a series of steady gigs, that will pay the bills. Limping along from audition to audition, waiting tables or whatever in between, hoping to make a living as an actor. And every single one of those people was the most talented, gifted actor or musician or speaker in your high school class, and every one of them went off to Hollywood or New York full of dreams of stardom, only to find a life of struggle instead.
All of which is a roundabout way of introducing Susan Isaacs, because she is one of those people — (check out her imdb page) — who you may have seen popping up in the occasional guest-starring role over the years but who has put in a life of hard work in show business without ever scoring stardom. She’s had enough near-misses and brushes with fame to have earned a little bitterness — promising pilots she was cast in never got aired, her movie scenes ended up on the cutting-room floor, friends she worked with went on to stardom (she mentions this in a general way in the book, but that same imdb page reveals she was in a comedy troupe with Tony Hale, a name that instantly leaped out at me because he was Buster in Arrested Development).
But the point of this story is, unlike many of the actors and would-be actors she worked with, Susan Isaacs was a born-again Christian. Had been since her teens, though like many young adults she’d gotten a little off-track with God during her young-adult years. But over and over, through the crazy churches she attended and through her own mistakes, she kept making the choice to stick with God, to do things His way, to be faithful. And along with that faithfulness went the assumption that God would also be faithful — that He would eventually give Susan the two things she wanted most: a fulfilling, loving relationship, and a career that would allow her to use her gifts.
By the time this memoir opens, Susan has hit midlife and God isn’t coming through on His end of the deal. So Susan takes a unique path: she drags God off to couples counselling to see why their marriage isn’t working out.
Basically, the memoir consists of Susan telling her life story, interspersed with sessions with a Christian counsellor where she brings God onto the couch, imagining His side of the story as she accuses Him of not being faithful to her. Along the way, Susan is forced to confront her own concept of God — like all of us, she makes God in her own image, snarky and sarcastic and quick to take offense. And she’s forced to confront her expectations of God, and her expectations for her own life.
Bringing God to couple’s counselling is a unique concept, and it works as an organizing device for this book, although I think I would have gotten tired of it if the scripts of her counselling sessions had made up the bulk of the book. Interspersed between the chapters telling her story in a more straightforward memoir fashion, though, they make for an intriguing way to reflect on what’s happened to Susan throughout her life and how it’s shaped her. I really enjoyed this memoir and the insights that emerged from Susan’s story. One of the key questions that arises is: Why do we, as Christians, follow God? What expectations do we have from Him, and are we right to expect blessings in return for faithful service? It’s worth pondering.