Vulnerability, honesty, and wisdom characterize the very best spiritual autobiographies (think of Augustine’s “Confessions,” Merton’s “Seven Storey Mountain,” or Day’s “The Long Loneliness”). I found all three in Dr. John Spitzer’s “Finding God Again and Again.”
Spitzer is a pediatrician, husband, and the father of two children who, although he was born in the U.S., spent much of his childhood in Cali, Colombia, before returning to the United States. He wrote this book in pieces over the course of nearly twenty years (2001-2020), labeling each chapter with the month and year of its composition. The result isn’t a neat retrospective, filtered and edited to conform to a dramatic arc. Instead, he took me on a journey through the ups and downs of his life, including several bouts with cancer. Although he gives some details of these experiences, his focus is on his internal life, especially his relationship with God. I got to see this relationship evolve and mature as the trials he faces lead him to new insights and practices. He moves from a more discursive style of prayer, for example, to a more contemplative style, walking us through several rich experiences of encountering Jesus in imaginative prayer. But even in the early parts of the book, Spitzer’s relationship with God is poignantly intimate. I recognized myself in his efforts to get his relationship with God “right”: like me, he has to learn again and again that there is no “getting it right” per se, only a childlike surrender to God’s love and mercy.
Spitzer is Catholic, and the spirituality he practices has a Catholic “flavor,” drawing on Catholic spiritual masters and Ignatian spirituality, for example. There’s an immediacy and rawness to his writing that reminds me of what Therese Martin might have written if she had lived into middle age.
“I have two main yearnings: I yearn to find my identity, and I yearn for love.” Spitzer frames his account with reflections on these yearning at the beginning and at the end of the book: “When I realize both of these yearnings in my relationship with God, then my heart feels at peace.” The search for this peace runs through the whole book; anyone walking a similar path will benefit from the wisdom and guidance Spitzer provides in these pages.
By Jerry Windley-Daoust
Author, Imagine You Walked with Jesus