Thursday, September 19, 2013

A Book to Read With Caution

Sometimes I come across books that are hard to review. I, like other reviewers, fear negative remarks and attacks. So, why even write a review that isn't positive and what people want to hear? Well, because of concern--concern about how ideas and words can get twisted. I like to read some of the books that I think will be popular in mainstream Christian circles, so that I'm aware of what people are reading and thinking about.  So, I decided to read Stasi Eldredge's new book Becoming Myself.  It was published a month ago.  

My husband and I have read several of John and Stasi Eldredges' books over the past years. We've noticed that there are some good ideas in their books, but that the points can get carried away.  I discussed their books with our pastor this morning and he used a phrase that I thought was very apt to describe their books.  He described their approach as being very "emotionally charged."  I agree.  It is.  

As I started out reading this book, I was very curious about what the pages ahead held for me. But, as I read the first few chapters, I began to get a little concerned. I was surprised by the rabbit trails and paths that she took. The goal of the book, I believe, is to encourage women to understand that they are loved by the Lord for who He made them to be and that they are continuing to become that woman as they trust and walk with the Lord. Along the way, she addresses cultural issues (among them was misogyny and the hatred of women). She addresses the role of one's mother in a woman's life and specifically devotes time to how one's mother cared for you while you were in her womb. She asserts that this care of a baby while in a mother's womb would either lead a woman to be secure or insecure, to feel rejected or accepted. She doesn't include any scientific or psychological support for this statement. She sites a video by a woman that I did not recognize as her only support for several pages of assertions. She then moves on to freedom and not judging others.  Along the way through the book, I found several statements that concerned me.

Here are some examples:
From pg. 72, "What happens in the womb sets the foundation for our life.  When a mother is happy, secure, and hopeful, the blood flow to her uterus opens up and fully nourishes the fetus.  When a mother is worried, anxious, or fearful, the blood vessels constrict, and the flow of blood to the fetus is constricted.  The developing baby does not get enough.  If that experience is predominant, the baby comes to believe in her core that she will not have enough; she is not secure, not safe, and not taken care of.... and then on pg. 73, Ms. Eldredge encourages readers to ask "While you were being formed in your mother's womb, think on it: do you think you were satisfied?  Did you get enough?"

On Pg. 169, Ms. Eldredge encourages women not to judge others with these words, "Judgments are dangerous; judgements are like curses.  They release the hatred of the Enemy upon those we have judged.  When Christians pray with a spirit of judgment it is not a prayer, it is a curse.  Christian curses happen when we pray wanting vengeance, when we pray with a spirit of hatred, judgment, anger, or revenge.  Prayers like "Get him, God," "Teach him a lesson," "Rebuke him, God" have the same energy as witchcraft.  Actually they are witchcraft, and they hurt people.  They damage them spiritually and physically...When I say "judging," I'm not talking about the wisdom of discernment between evil and good.  I'm talking about cursing others."  She makes some strong statements there.  Ones that I'm not entirely comfortable with.   

At several points, I had to put the book down for a while. The first time it was because I was puzzled by the author's statements and realized that while what she said could be true, it felt like it could be very easily twisted and misinterpreted. Later on, I set it down out of frustration over the discussion of misogyny and attributing an adult woman's struggle with insecurity to her mother's pregnancy and treatment (or neglect) of her at that time. But, I picked it back up. I finally set it down again after reading a long chapter about dreams and how we need to have dreams, because if we don't we won't be successful or happy--because dreams only come true when people have them. At this point, I set the book down, looked out the window and cried.

Dreams are a tricky thing. This is a theme that comes through in several of the Eldredges' books. That we are to dream and that God will give us the desires of our hearts. Well, yes... and no. God often does not give me what I want or dream of. I had dreams for my life when I was a young woman just out of college. Those dreams have not come true. Instead, God has given me other gifts and a different life than I ever thought I'd lead. I can see how my life is what He had for me. I can see how it is best for me--though not easy. I have come to feel that God kept me from some successes that could have led me down a path away from the Lord. I couldn't reconcile my views with Ms. Eldredge's ideas about dreams. I suppose that is sad. I suspect there's a middle ground between what she writes in this book and the cynicism that has stolen into my views about dreams.

I will say, there is some good stuff in this book, too.  Here's a good quote from pg. 133 "A word about honest.  The Scripture exhorts us to speak the truth in love.  Speak the truth in love.  Which means, don't speak the truth in anger or resentment or with the desire to wound.  We need to be careful to check our motives underneath our speaking the truth.  We want to be aware of the "why" behind the desire to share something."  I completely agree.  Earlier in the book on page 45, she says, "Though our past has shaped us, we are not our past.  Though our failures and sin have had an effect on who we are, we are not defined by our failures or our sin.  Though thought patterns and addictions have overwhelmed us, we are not overcome by them and we will never be overcome by them.  Jesus has won our victory.  Jesus is our victory."  Again I agree.  Isaiah 43:2 NIV

When you pass through the waters,
    I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
    they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
    you will not be burned;
    the flames will not set you ablaze.

There is some good truth in this book.  But, it was some of the author's rabbit trails and applications that concerned me and give me reason to not recommend this book.  I think it is very important for women to understand that God loves them and created each woman uniquely. We are loved. And what we think shapes who we are and how we live. But, instead of this book, I would recommend a different one--The Silent Seduction of Self-Talk: Conforming Deadly Thought Patterns to the Word of God I'd also recommend Cynthia Heald's Bible study series Becoming a woman of... I'd particularly recommend starting with Becoming a Woman of Freedom. I think it covers the same topic, but by going straight to the Bible. Becoming a Woman of Grace (and honestly all the other ones in the series) also deeply encouraged me.

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