A.J. Swoboda’s The Dusty Ones is about the reality of wandering. All humans wander through life, figuring out who they are and where they fit.
Contrary to what many Christians seem to project about God and the Christian life today, Swoboda wants readers to know that Christianity makes sense of human wandering not because it provides an escape but because it tells us why it happens and what it’s for.
Swoboda draws heavily on the biblical narrative as a whole, highlighting the wandering-like stories of Abraham, Moses, and the people of Israel. The people of God have always been a wandering people; indeed, it’s the experience of wandering in the proverbial desert that constitutes the real saving of salvation.
Wandering, the desert, is for God to meet you.
In every chapter, Swoboda confides in the diverse Christian tradition; from John Calvin, Marianne Moore, and St. Bernard of Clairvaux. He refreshingly draws on poets, singers, novelists, and theologians from every corner of the Christian tradition without prejudice.
Swoboda writes with pastoral candour; you can almost hear him preach what he writes. His anecdotal style of writing is vulnerable and engaging; he speaks of his own wandering as a pastor, father, and husband. The book itself is a sort of experiment in the art of wandering, frequently offering nuggets of insight on the Bible, singing songs, and the goodness of a simple life drawn from Swoboda’s own experience.
Swoboda’s honest and vulnerable expression of the slow and mysterious qualities of wandering will make you appreciate the transforming power of being present in the mundane; be careful, he may even convince you to start your own garden and raise your own chickens.
The Dusty Ones will challenge readers to let go of the clean box used for God and to enjoy the wandering mystery of the desert; the place where God encounters his people.