Ken Gire has taken the time and care to craft a well-rounded book. After a prologue, which perceptively lays out his love-hate relationship with his childhood home, RELENTLESS PURSUIT begins and ends with the tragic but inspiring story of poet Francis Thompson, best known for his complex “Hound of Heaven” metaphor that envisions God as a hunting dog who will not give up his search for Thompson, a broken drug addict, or his readers.
In chapter one, Gire draws out a piece of literary history: young Dorothy Day hearing her inebriated friend Eugene O’Neill quoting Thompson, “I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways / of my own mind…” The sobering moment made its way into Day’s spiritual autobiography, recounting God’s pursuit of her.
"Ken Gire has taken the time and care to craft a well-rounded book. After a prologue, which perceptively lays out his love-hate relationship with his childhood home, RELENTLESS PURSUIT begins and ends with the tragic but inspiring story of poet Francis Thompson..."
In chapter two, Gire relates the dramatic story of Anne Lamott’s more recent conversion, winding it around Jeremiah’s Lamentations and finally Margaret Wise Brown’s children’s classic THE RUNAWAY BUNNY. He then recaps the conversion of C. S. Lewis before summarizing his own journey as a Texan teen and college and seminary student, his energies focused on the parachurch ministry of Young Life. He soon settled in as a writer with Chuck Swindoll and Insight for Living in southern California. He ends chapter three by saying, “Life was good there…. I thought it would last forever.” Obviously it didn’t.
Throughout the rest of book, Gire winds his story around explanatory narratives of biblical, literary and cinematic characters. God is pursuing the unbeliever, yes, but also “the part of us that is lost,” the child who is teased or emotionally broken down by a parent, the witty showman who feels inadequate, the person striving to live up to expectations…. Gire identifies a painful culprit as shame that convinces us that we are unlovable and hopeless --- incapable of change. A few revealing anecdotes --- such as a Young Life mentee discovering Gire’s notebook of sarcastic comebacks --- are poignant.
Eventually, Gire apparently had a breakdown of sorts, lifelong anger spilling over, spewing forth. Here details are less clear. He went through residential therapy, counseling, faced his inadequacies and his mortality, and found a deeper level of God’s forgiving grace --- for himself and for his volatile father. In coming to terms with his personal shame, Gire eventually faces aging issues, largely presented in terms of his children: They grew up so fast. Why wasn’t I there for them? How could I have wasted my life? Here again, the specifics are vague; the landscape of his adult home life hasn’t been part of the narrative. Here again, in the end God’s grace floods the scene: “The joy on the inside gives us the strength to bear the truth…without hiding from it.”
The eighth of nine chapters in this book about “God’s love for outsiders” at first glance seems intrusive or parenthetical. And yet its topic (“God’s Mandate to the Insider”), particularly its central anecdote, is critical to the overall message. Gire challenges his readers: “Finding the lost sheep and bringing it home --- Jesus’ mission --- also is meant to be ours.” After years of rather insular living, Gire tried to befriend a panhandler. The story doesn’t have a neat ending, but what he has subsequently learned (from watching the movie The Soloist) about helping the marginalized “outsider”…well, it’s worth the price of the book.
Reviewed by Evelyn Bence on September 19, 2012