Featured Reviews

Casey Tygrett – The Gift of Restlessness [Feature Review]

The Gift of RestlessnessExperiencing the Abundant Life of Jesus

A Feature Review of

The Gift of Restlessness: A Spirituality for Unsettled Seasons
Casey Tygrett

Paperback: Broadleaf Books, 2023
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Reviewed by Danny Wright

Casey Tygrett begins his book, The Gift of Restlessness, by encouraging readers to understand that we cannot escape the present moment, and that the difficult moments of life are actually thick with the Divine. He defines restlessness as being irritated or unsettled in the present tense moments of our lives. Being stuck in those moments causes us to doubt where we have been, and where we are headed. He reminds us that the late poet John O’Donohue stresses that “desire is often expressed in restlessness,” and  that our hardest work with God is actually done in the wilderness. He even refers to Joan Chittister who believes that dissatisfaction is actually the spiritual director of our souls.

Tygrett builds the thesis for his book on the concept of the wilderness experience of Jesus after his baptism. He emphasizes the fact that Mark says that the Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness directly after His affirmation and confirmation as the beloved. In that wilderness, Jesus existed between the wild beasts and the angels.  Belovedness, not bliss, drove him into the wilderness where the Spirit assisted Jesus in finding a way through, and not around. Jesus remained in the middle of those questions and temptations and refused to fight, flee, or flop in their wake. It is why we are to remain in the restless present tense. The author believes that we abide there by remaining with purpose between the wild beasts and the angels.  In that space, we ask real human questions and press toward action by praying for belonging, purpose, sustenance, mending, protection, and rescue with Jesus in the prayer that he taught us to pray. Each successive chapter ushers readers through the phrases of the Lord’s Prayer, and walks them through spiritual practices that will help them incarnate each lesson.

Tygrett contends that “Belonging is the story of home that we tell to locate our souls within a particular time, place, and people,” and asserts that restlessness helps us know the difference between what he calls Upper Case Belonging, and all of the changing lower case belongings that we experience.  He claims that the spiritual life is about recognizing our less than attachments, detaching from the inferior ones, and re-attaching to the proper Divine attachments that bring us life while identifying that the ultimate movement in belonging to God is one from attachment to metaphor to attachment to mystery.  The attachment to mystery allows us to freely shift between the varying images of God that we discover as we continue to learn and grow.  I especially appreciated his emphasis in this section on hearing the voice of God saying, “Love yourself.  You’re loved already.” The author concludes that section by highlighting the importance of knowing where we are at any given moment, and not allowing anxiety to carry us away from where we are. He asserts that presence in the present is transformational.

As he discusses the coming of the Kingdom, he posits that purpose is summed up by what we love, and not what we do.  Referencing the Shema, he urges us to understand that our human purpose is to love, to be loved, and to allow love to offer a new vision of reality for the world at large.  He proposes that God’s dream for love to rule and reign within all of creation is actually the heart and source of our restless search for purpose.

When he discusses the phrase “give us this day,” he wants the reader to think about the concept of how much is enough, and believes that spiritual transformation happens somewhere between more and too much restlessness appears when the story, image, or memory that shapes our world is questioned.  Much of Jesus’ teaching was rewiring and reframing what had come before, and as we enter spaces in life that need restructuring, we have to learn to grieve the transition from what we used to know.  It is difficult to learn to live in God’s divine economy of abundance and resist the popular concept that we are restrained by scarcity.  Solitude and silence will produce the foundation that grants us the ability to rewire the desire to fix, repair, and gather, while providing us with the space to develop a non-anxiousness that helps us learn to be at home with ourselves.

As the author transitions into forgiving and being forgiven, and the need for mending, he advises us to find companions that can guide us as we move along the spectrum of creating a posture of forgiveness.  He asserts that forgiveness is not a contract, and that we should learn to pray “forgive us…as we forgive,” and “Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing” daily.  These prayers remind us that the world is tilted toward redemption, and that there is enough safe space for us in God’s love to extend grace to our fellow image-bearers without having to enforce boundaries developed out of anger.

The author then tackles the idea of our protection by exploring the the phrase “lead us not.”  He wonders if we have missed out on being properly formed because of our desire to remain in the safest spaces possible, and establishes that shalom is a peace where ease and comfort, as well as trouble and trial abide.  He insists that true safety allows us to face the tough times of life with compassion and patience, and urges us to learn the wisdom of living each season with the knowledge that all seasons will eventually end.

The author then concludes the journey through the Lord’s Prayer by discussing our need for rescue found in asking for deliverance.  He contends that all of us will eventually find ourselves in need and ultimately have to embrace our helplessness to find rescue.  Tygrett even proposes that salvation is a journey through “little hells” that will eventually transform us, and it is our privilege to be trusted to work with God in the continuing redemption of the world.

Casey Tygrett is a spiritual director and pastor, and his vocation shines through in his insightful questions and discerning ponderings found in the practices at the end of each chapter.  He helps readers navigate through the struggles and doubts that test our ability to trust and grow.  This book serves as an excellent companion and guide through our wilderness experiences and will be a comfort for anyone who recognizes the need to appreciate the abundant life that Jesus offers us in the prayerful contemplation of the normal, and often difficult and troubling, everyday.

Danny Wright

Danny Wright serves at New Paradigm Christian Church, and is a chaplain at three Midas stores. He is also a chaplain at The Ark Christian Ministries, works with a gap year program called Entermission, and has a podcast called Finding God in Culture. He is married to Melissa, and has two daughters living in Chicago.

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