Tables in the Wilderness
A Memoir of God Found, Lost, and Found Again
When you grow up Evangelical in the South, you hear God speak all the time.
Preston Yancey arrived at Baylor University in the autumn of 2008 with his life figured out: he was Southern Baptist, a moderate liberal, had a girlfriend he would soon propose to, and planned to study political science. But slowly Preston’s secure world fell apart until every piece of what he thought was true and certain was lost: His church. His life of study. His girlfriend. His best friend. And his God.
Travel with Yancey on a journey you and many others may have already taken, or will take in the future: the movement from a secure faith into an overturned life. And arrive at a place that is bigger than narrow answers about God’s will, and clearer than the silences in between.
Foreword by Jefferson Bethke.
Published by Zondervan. Available everywhere fine books are sold, September 30, 2014.
Praise for Tables in the Wilderness
The technological revolution we have experienced in the last 10 years or so has brought about a few unique peculiarities to the publishing world, specifically the Christian one. What I mean is, because of the internet we now have authors or content creators who write books, not just writers. But with this shift we need to even more protect the writers.
The people who it’s in their bones to write.
It’s part of who they are.
Their words are beautiful, poetic, deep, and more than just words.
... Preston is a writer. I found myself savoring every word, following this mysterious trail of grace he was laying out on every page. There is something artistic, creative, and beautiful about how his fingers grace the keyboard. I laughed, I wept, and I thought deeply when reading this book.
— from the foreword by Jefferson Bethke,
NYT Bestselling Author of Jesus > Religion
This book is a gift - to readers, to the Church, and to the spiritual memoir genre. Preston Yancey writes with stunning clarity, wisdom, and grace, and with this debut sets himself apart as one of the finest writers of faith of our time.
— Rachel Held Evans,
NYT Bestselling Author of A Year of Biblical Womanhood
I don't know what it is exactly about Preston's writing and this book in particular, but you manage to find a million points of connection no matter how your spiritual path has meandered. Every good and deep part of you that has wrestled or struggled or walked away from faith (or tried to) finds a moment in Tables in the Wilderness to breathe, to be understood, to grasp hope. The best thing I can say is that as you close the very last page, your soul is yearning for God and you know that He will be found.
— Jen Hatmaker,
author of Interrupted and 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess
Preston’s writing is simply gorgeous: clear, elegant, full of emotional honesty. I loved the experiences of curling up with these pages.
— Shauna Niequist,
author of Bread & Wine
I’m wandering in the faith wilderness and always searching for the right map to guide me back to faith civilization. This book made me reconsider that search. Preston suggests that we can Be Still and find God right here, right now – inside our wilderness. In Preston’s book we find a beautiful table and other weary wilderness dwellers with whom to eat and learn and live. I am going to rest here. Thank you for setting the table, Preston. As a theologian, Preston is in his own category. He’s ancient and modern and skips all the made up mess in between. He’s a teacher and a student, and most of the time I can’t tell if he’s totally lost or completely found. This is what makes his work true and holy and utterly brilliant. Preston is brilliant, and this book is a prayer that he has prayed for all of us.
— Glennon Doyle Melton,
author of the NYT Bestseller Carry On, Warrior and the founder of Momastery.com
Many preach grace—Preston practices grace. He loves well and his words engage and dissect the human soul with the precision of a master surgeon.
— Jennie Allen,
founder of IF Gathering and author of Restless
Preston Yancey is an old soul—I'm allowed to say that because I'm older than him, but actually I'm humbled and proud to call him a teacher. His wisdom leads me to knowing a greater God; a deeper, more loving Jesus. We are all in a richer place because he shares his gift of words with us.
— Tsh Oxenreider,
author of Notes From a Blue Bike: The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World
I loved this conflicted, honest, and beautifully written book. In some ways, it's a glimpse of a foreign world for us non-academics and yet it's a universal story of heartbreak, growing up, community, pride, friendship, and the disruptions and pursuits of a not-safe-but-good God. If you've tucked your version of God or Church or love into a stale airless room with three point manifestos, prepare for the free wind of the Spirit to sweep in and open up the doors. There's a whole world waiting outside.
— Sarah Bessey,
author of Jesus Feminist
Preston Yancey’s Tables in the Wilderness is a full and rich exploration of the still, quiet, transformative presence of God. It is a work of epiphany, of one man’s journey from the deserts of his own accidental making into the fullness of the feast-table of Christ. Full of wit, wisdom, and emotional gravity, Tables in the Wilderness is a beautiful, spellbinding read from the first word to the last. We should all hope that this is only the first of Yancey’s many chapters to come.
— Seth Haines,
editor for deeperstory.com
Journey with Preston Yancey into the bewildering, silent wilderness in this poignant, honest, coming-of-spiritual-age memoir. Walk with him as he questions and stumbles his way toward an understanding that faith is not a linear path but a series of leaps -- forward and backward, side to side. Rejoice with him as he discovers God at every point -- a God who prepares tables in the wilderness to sustain him along the way.
— Michelle DeRusha,
author of Spiritual Misfit: A Memoir of Uneasy Faith
In Tables in the Wilderness, Preston Yancey deftly explores the intersections of God's voice and His silence, between knowledge and mystery, between brokenness and wholeness. His story is deeply personal, yet shot through with wisdom, theology, liturgy and quiet. I come away from Preston's book grateful for the Bigness of God and for the tables that have been laid out for me in the most desolate places.
— Addie Zierman,
author of When We Were on Fire: A Memoir of Consuming Faith, Tangled Love, and Starting Over
In Tables in the Wilderness, Preston Yancey describes a life of spiritual disillusionment that untold numbers of Americans can empathize with. But more than that, he shares how he's come to grips with a God who is bigger and better than he dreamed. Preston's book reads like a carefully crafted novel, replete with unexpected twists and turns that will captive audiences. Most importantly, it is a tale of someone with enough spiritual chops to ask difficult questions about God and life. Read it and uncover a faith worth believing.
— Jonathan Merritt,
author of Jesus is Better Than You Imagined; senior columnist for Religion News Service
Preston Yancey writes this memoir with a voice of unusual wisdom, as a coming-of-age journey to a prepared table, a table set in the wilderness between him and a triune God. If you know the sound of the silence of God, the wrestle to cease striving, and the play at spirituality, read Tables in the Wilderness. Read it and feel invited in the direction of joy, into the Presence. The goodness of God is indeed in the land of the living.
— Amber C Haines,
blogger at therunamuck and upcoming author with Revell
Preston Yancey’s Tables in the Wilderness is not just a book you are about to read, it’s a thing that’s about to happen to you. There are just frankly not many contemporary spiritual memoirs anywhere nearly this good (nor this honest), and the fact that it’s Yancey’s first book makes it nothing less than an event. As a first quarter of life memoir, Tables has few peers: this is a breakout on par with Lauren Winner’s Girl Meets God.
You haven’t read a lot of books like Tables in the Wilderness, because not many of them exist. Yancey writes with an easy, un-coerced eloquence; casual grace, big heart and relentless candor. He’s a young writer with an weathered soul, a wordsmith with the chops of a young Frederick Buechner. Like Buechner, I hope this “sacred journey” will be the first of many accounts of his life. I want him to have been alive longer already so he'd have more beautiful, painfully human stories about life and God to tell us.
— Jonathan Martin,
author of Prototype and founder of Renovatus: A Church for People Under Renovation
It’s been a long time since I’ve read something so beautifully-written. Preston Yancey’s Tables in the Wilderness is exquisite, rich and leads the reader on an intimate journey of discovering the goodness & full beauty of God. Yancey’s writing is unmatched and his debut book is an absolute treasure. Don’t miss this one.
— Nish Weiseth,
author, Speak: How Your Story Can Change the World, Editor in Chief, deeperstory.com
Know Preston Yancey for even five minutes, and you’ll find yourself longing for a seat next to him around any dinner table. Consider this book your first invitation. He is the consummate host, spreading a feast that beckons you to linger long with a promise of conversation that rouses the soul and stirs up a greater longing for life in the presence of God. Unafraid to question or to search hard, he invites readers to journey along as he prepares a table in anticipation of Jesus’ arrival in the dailiness of his own life. Tables in the Wilderness is a literary morsel to be savored for sure.
— Logan Wolfram, Executive Director of Allume
Preston Yancey offers a fresh take on the ancient tradition of the work of affective devotion. Tables in the Wilderness illuminates the simple but essential truth that our place at God’s table is that of welcome and beloved guest, served up a feast not of our design but for our delight.
— Karen Swallow Prior,
author of Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More—Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist