This review is an oddity for me. You may have heard me rant against devotional books, especially the "Christian self-help" genre that seems to come mostly out of American evangelical Christianity. I've found books of theology helpful, but not "devotionals."
I stumbled across this one on Amazon. The first line I saw when I looked at the introduction was, "I taught people around me that I had no needs and then was secretly angry with them for believing me."
Ow. I'd never heard someone speak one of the secrets of my darkest heart before.
Also, I couldn't recall ever hearing someone speak of the Christian life as one where you didn't have to try hard all the time. It was months before I began reading the book, and took me six more to finish. Not because it was difficult, but because the content aligned with things I'd long ago decided could not be true. Would be too good to be true. It took a while to climb out of those old mental habits far enough for them to start to change.
Freeman was a "good girl," hiding behind performance and reputation, trying to meet the expectations of herself, of others, of God, trying to live up to the Christian story as she understood it. This book is the result of her journey out of that place, a cleanly written, honest chronicle by which she hopes to show other "good girls" how to receive God's grace and rest in the freedom of Christ.
I appreciate her refusal to claim that her journey is an objective step-by-step process, or that everyone in the world needs what she has to say. Yet she is also unafraid to stand firm in what she has gleaned from that journey, speaking truth that bends around constrictive theology and old customs to touch the heart.
It is a deeply Christian book, although there are things in it that even a non-believer might benefit from. On her blog, the author has laughed about the amount of "Christianese," saying she might have used less were she writing this book now. But that did not obscure the good things in it, not for me.
I don't think I can sum it up easily, so instead, I'm going to list 7 quotes that I found compelling. If any of them strike a chord in you--whether a deep desire or a deep wish to reject--this book may be for you.
"As a good girl, I lived a lot of my life believing that other people knew a secret about being a believer that I wasn't privy to."
"Please, by all means, regard me. I beg you to see me, to notice my goodness, to ignore my failure, to be inspired by my beauty, to be captivated by my essence.... When you reject me, be it real or perceived, I ponder and defend inside my head. And the fear wins a little more of my heart, until I discover that I am stuck in it."
"I was a good recorder of the praise and the accolades from the grown-ups who thought I was strong and capable.... But instead of simply interpreting their words as encouragement, I internalized them and let them become a standard to continue reaching for."
"Living as a good girl, there are times when I've seen the value of my life as only equal to the sum of my failures."
"If I am trying to please God, it is difficult to trust God. But when I trust God, pleasing him is automatic."
"The law places responsibility on me to do, but grace is given by the initiative of God and invites me to be."
"You are not accepted because you are good.
You are free to be good because you are accepted.
You are not responsible to have it all together.
You are free to respond to the One who holds all things in his hands.
You do not have to live up to impossible expectations.
You are free to wait expectantly on Jesus, the One who is both author and perfecter of your faith."
If anyone has read this book already, or does so in the future, I'd love to discuss it with you. Drop me a comment here or private message me. Seriously. :)