Dear Susan E. Isaacs,
I love you. When I first flipped over your book “Angry Conversations with God” and saw your picture on the back, I thought to myself, “I don’t like her.” You looked cute and happy. I was expecting you to look angry and a little ugly. Still I felt compelled to read your book because my husband bought it for me and because it said “Angry” right on the cover. I usually identify with angry people.
As I began to read your book I realized that my original assessment wasn’t wrong; you are the type of person I really don’t like. No poverty. No divorce. Not even an abusive childhood. What on earth could you be so angry about? I kept reading anyway, because I am a sucker for anything funny. You might not be ugly and poor, but you certainly are funny. I also wanted to know why you were so mad, because angry people are hilarious. I kept waiting to get to the part where somebody makes you mad. That moment when your comfortable life is disrupted by racists or terrorists or really inconvenient computer problems (which, for the record, make me as mad as terrorism). I don’t know what I expected. Maybe you were really mad about Firefly getting cancelled after just one season. I think my husband had some angry conversations with God after that. So, I read your whole book in eager expectation, even though you’re still too cute and we have almost nothing in common.
What impressed me most about your memoir is that you had the courage to write about your family’s failures. Your dad’s nightly cursing, your mom’s passivity, and even your grandparents’ caustic remarks weren’t off limits. On top of that, you wrote about your own failures with raw honesty that is extraordinarily rare, especially in Christian circles. As it turns out, you have had adversity in your childhood that I didn’t have. My parents divorced, but your parents stayed together in a cold and miserable marriage. When my family fell apart, school was my refuge. For you, school was where you were bullied to a breaking point. My family was poor and I couldn’t have cared less. Your family had enough money to be comfortable, but it wasn’t good enough for your Dad. He became destructively bitter as the financial success he sought evaded him.
Your book is refreshing. Several months later I realized just how important your book was to me. Way back in 2013 my oldest son was diagnosed with a chronic illness and by 2015 I found myself seriously depressed. To try and pull myself out of this depression I decided to write. I am not a writer, but I had a story that needed processing, and writing was the only way to do it. God has done some amazing things in my life, so I thought remembering God’s awesome goodness to me would help me get through my current struggle with my son’s incurable disease.
I started by writing about how, at age 13, I came to live with a wonderful Christian lady. Then I wrote about coming to faith at a Bible Camp. I wanted to skip my many painful circumstances, such as the reason I moved out of my biological mother’s house, and the despicable men that lived with her. I thought that including these details would be too painful and shame my family. Then I remembered the honesty in your book and how powerfully you forced the ugliness of your family’s failures into the light. In doing so you shamed no one. You allowed God to use your shame and create something true and honorable (and hilarious). I thought, “If Susan Isaacs can do that, so can I.”
With you in mind, I kept writing, and even included the shameful parts. But I was still determined to stop before I had to write about my experiences at an absurd little Bible College in the Midwest. That’s where I made some decisions that led to horrible things. Since this involved my own mistakes I assumed writing about them would be humiliating. But I remembered your book and your mistakes. None of which made me think any less of you. As a matter of fact, I admired you for being so open. Consequently, I kept writing my self-deprecating narrative long after I wanted to quit.
Thank you for giving me permission to speak freely about my life. Thank you for showing me that writing the truth does not bring shame and eternal humiliation. I am now done working on my book. It’s not published just yet. If you want to read it, I’ll send it to you. And you should read it. It’s funny. If it ever gets published, I’ll send you a copy. You’ll find your name in the “Acknowledgments” section. But if you don’t ever read it, my love and appreciation for you will not diminish one bit. What you have already done is worthy of honor, and I am very grateful to you for sharing your story with the likes of me.
Your literary protégé,