For the Love… a Critical Review

unnamedJen Hatmaker, whose previous book was a spiritual adventure for me, recently published For the Love to rave reviews and a place on the New York Times Bestseller List.  Her new book is a fun stream-of-consciousness roller coaster ride through the rants and raves of a Jesus-loving, preacher’s wife and mother-of-5, sprinkled with a little minor celebrity glitz. It is, therefore, not what I  expected, and it does not deliver on the promises made in advance publicity, the book’s own introduction or even its pithy subtitle: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards.  Because of the misconceptions people might have about it, I am posting this fairly critical review.

Although For the Love occasionally makes a great point of practical theology (“If you can make a pot of chili and use a cell phone, then you can create community,” or, “Anytime the rich and poor combine, we should listen to whoever has the least power.”), it is not what I expected because the title suckered me. I thought it was going to be a straight-up education about grace applied to ourselves primarily and others secondarily, something we all sorely need, whether we are coming from the get-your-life-in-line end of the spectrum or the let-it-all-hang-out end. But it’s not. After the wonderful introduction, grace is never directly addressed again, and there are whole chapters which don’t even use the word. There IS a chapter on fashion, multiple chapters addressing pet peeves, Jen’s life in Facebook posts and several intricate recipes. Yes, there are a couple of serious chapters about missions (ala When Helping Hurts) and church leaders, but there is approximately one Bible reference (ok, I found three more in the second-to-last, confusing chapter encouraging women to lead more) and for a book touting grace, I felt kind of ragged on a few times.

I could be the author’s mother (if I’d had a couple rough teen years), and I’ve earned the right to say that sometimes this good-hearted lady knows not of what she speaks. By her own admission she hasn’t been through a lot of hardships. She has a loving pastor-husband, five great kids who are still at home, and she and her friends cheer on one another’s published books, released CD’s, TV shows and popular podcasts. If someone is going to tell me how to raise kids, have a great marriage or dispense grace on the mission field, I’d like to hear it from someone who has suffered a bit. Talk to me again when there’s only one of you working on your marriage, when your grown child has embraced atheism, when you’ve had a significant part of your body disfigured, or when your best friend or your dreams have died a slow death. Until then, please adhere to truth in advertising by subtitling your book: Funny Blogs about Being a Middle-aged Christian Mom.

Please buy this book (seriously, do) if you want to read some light yet inspiring Christian humor. Just don’t be fooled by the title like I was. And, Jen, when you decide to write the book you promised in the introduction, I’ll stand in line for it.


Related Material:

Why Christians Aren’t Seriously Studying God’s Word by Sam Storms

Going Deeper – CT

And to prove I’m not against Christian humor, here’s a funny video about Shallow Small Groups

For Every Single Christian

Washed and Waiting by Wes Hill

WashedWes Hill is a Christian pastor and professor who has grappled with homosexual desires all his life despite desperate attempts to be rid of them. Washed and Waiting is a book about his experiences in the church, his thoughts as he contends with his “handicap,” and a beautiful statement of a strong man’s commitment to the holiness of Christ outside the frontiers of ordinary comfort which most of us experience. I was most surprised, not by the strangeness of his temptations and struggles, but by their familiarity. No, I have never experienced same-sex attraction, but I have experienced brokenness in many areas of my life, including my desires. Sometimes known as “disordered affections,” we ALL have them in some form.

Hill’s greatest challenge is a deep and abiding loneliness. In fact, his sexuality seems almost easily set aside (though I doubt it has been easy) compared with this disconnection, the feeling that he will never really belong to anyone or anything. First, Hill wonders whether the love of Christ is sufficient to cure him, and he speaks poignantly about the physical dimensions of companionship which we cannot experience with Christ on this earth. Next, he looks to the community of believers as a source for the agape love he most needs.  While he has had some amazing friends and mentors, his loneliness has not abated.

The author’s desire for intimacy reminded me of the deep, true and yet sometimes naive longing I hear from my never-married friends and clients. Someone who has not experienced the joys and challenges of married life imagines it to be the cure for what ails them. They color it with a healing hue that marriage only partially and intermittently possesses. They fail to consider that marriage can be the loneliest place on earth and one of the most difficult, that in many cases, God intends marriage more for our refining than for our enjoyment. In all honesty, my closest relationships have always been with other Christian women, though I believe that the committed aspect of marriage meets a deep need for belonging that no other institution quite satisfies.  Being (or having been) married tells us that we are worthy in a way nothing else does.  Truly, it is not good for man to be alone – it is very hard.

In the modern western world, we do not expect to do hard things. We don’t expect to lose children, to suffer the privations of war, to be persecuted for our faith or to be deeply unfulfilled in any area of life. We don’t cultivate a faith big enough to carry us through those trials; we go out and change our circumstances. We change jobs, change houses, change spouses, change churches. We consider unfulfilled longing to be a fixable and unnatural state – whereas, it is utterly the state of fallen man, and faith alone is the foundation which can hold us fast when other anchors drift. Unlike so many today who demand their cravings be fulfilled, who give up on their promises, who prefer to ask for forgiveness than to live in obedience, and some who would even change Scripture rather than deny their disordered desires, Wes Hill is willing to live with his loneliness and longing for one lifetime so that his King might be glorified for eternity.

Washed and Waiting is a book for every single (never married) Christian and a book for every single (all, everywhere) Christian. May we all become more like the author. May we cultivate a faith which is deeper than our brokenness, more willing to suffer for Christ, more committed to holiness and more compelling for all that.


Related Material:

A Message for Pastors from Wes Hill

Wes Hill’s Tumblr Blog

Organizations:

http://www.livingout.org/

http://www.sexualidentityinstitute.org/

http://harvestusa.org/

 

Parenting 101

Love & Respect in the Family by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs

L&RDr. Eggerichs’ first book, Love & Respect, was published to immediate acclaim in 2004.  His simple, Biblical prescription for marriage spoke to many in a clear, practical way that few other self-help programs have done before or since.  His most recent version of the formula is an application to parenthood.  How many of us, as children, have longed for a love we missed, and how many of us, as parents, have wished for real respect from our children?  Eggerichs addresses both sides of the equation in a thorough but easy-to-read style which is sure to hit home in many Christian families.

The book is built around a forgettable acronym which nevertheless incorporates most of the questions and problems every parent must face.  Covering topics like discipline, putting your spouse first, parenting the genders differently and understanding a teenager, the chapters come in manageable, even encouraging bites.  Eggerichs not only deals with common parental mistakes but delivers positive strategies to head off future problems.  He offers plenty of good advice in a practical style with stories and examples for creativity-challenged parents like me.

My only criticism of the book is its slightly outdated feel.  The book assumes a nuclear, biological family situation much closer to the Cleavers than the Pritchetts.  There is no helpful presentation of strategies for two working parents with a blended set of kids enduring the over-scheduled, media-hyped existence most of us really live.

That said, I think this is the best, all-around book on parenting (rather than a targeted approach for a distinct subset of ages or problems) that I have seen since Ross Campbell’s How to Really Love Your Child (first published in 1977).  I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to my daughter who is awaiting the birth of my first grandchild.  And I hope it finds its way into a lot of Christmas stockings this year.


Love and Respect Ministries

Buy the Book
I review for BookSneeze®