Being an extremely decisive person, it is uncommon for me to go very long without forming an opinion about something–particularly a book. It bothers me loads when this happens. I realized today that, sometimes, worldviews are slightly varied such that I can’t fully reject what an author is saying, but I also can’t agree with everything the book says. That’s where I’ve landed with Still Waiting by Ann Swindell.
I googled Ann to learn a little more about her; she seems like a fabulous gal! I believe that she loves the Lord and His Word. I believe she wants to apply it to her life in the most honest way possible. She has struggled for decades with trichotillomania, which is “a mental disorder that involves recurrent, irresistible urges to pull out hair from your scalp, eyebrows or other areas of your body, despite trying to stop.” (Mayo Clinic). I can completely understand why she would seek deliverance from this issue, though the reasons are likely different from why I would seek to be rid, once and for all, of Lyme disease. Both circumstances offer their own set of life challenges.
But, out of the gate, I think we are coming from two different angles.
While I suspect the author would agree that God is the great (and only) Heart-Changer, the majority of the book focuses on her desire for two things: relief from the desire to pull (behavioral change) and physical healing. She mentions very early in the book that anxiety was the onset cause of her trichotillomania. Anxiety . . . a heart issue, not a physical issue. (One could argue that a predisposition to anxiety is genetic, which could be true; but I would counter by wondering, if one predisposed to anxiety were removed from the environment containing the pre-exisiting anxiety, would he still struggle with anxiety? Is it nature or nurture that brings anxiety bubbling to the surface?)
I waited and waited for the chapter that told about the author’s experience in repenting of this anxiety (with which she continues to struggle) and finding freedom to live within the freedom that comes from that (even if she still pulled). But it never came.
Please don’t read that I am judging her heart; that’s not my place. I don’t know her and can’t know what she is thinking and feeling, aside from what I just read. She probably has asked the Lord to relieve her anxiety. But since that one chapter (an important one, in my mind) is missing from this book, I can’t fathom giving it to someone who struggles with anxiety and has claimed it as her identity (e.g., “I just have an anxious personality.”). I wouldn’t feel right having someone come away from a book without being encouraged to address the root of the issue. In my experience, when I am anxious it is because I have stopped trusting the Lord for some reason or another. There is no permanent, medical solution for anxiety; but there is a God who is able and trustworthy, and Who commands us not to be anxious.
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?[g] 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. (Matthew 6)
Again, I think we’re just coming at this topic from different perspectives. With that issue out of the way, I can say that I did find valuable truths in these pages. It certainly encouraged my heart many times, with regard to waiting. (We’re doing a bunch of waiting these days!) I just can’t get super excited about this book.
So . . . I’m not willing to throw the baby out with the bathwater, but I recommend reading it less as a self-help book (that’s not what it is), but with an eye for the truths about God that will encourage the soul.
Soli Deo gloria,
The first book I ever read by Jerry Bridges was Respectable Sins. I was a fairly new believer at the time, and you can be confident that it radically enhanced my view of my own sin before a holy God. This is partially because, during his life, Bridges possessed a tremendous gift: He wrote in a way that was especially accessible without watering down a passage of Scripture one bit. (One didn’t need a burgeoning lexicon of theological language to understand him.) I will always be grateful for how the Lord used Bridges to speak (sometimes hard) truth into my life, through the words his fingers typed. Without a doubt, the Lord used The Blessing of Humility to convict with the Word and encourage with the gospel. In short, this book is a treasure!
The Blessing of Humility, a mere 95 pages (excluding the discussion guide), is structured around the Beatitudes (Matt 5:1-12). In Bridges’ own words, “These expressions of Christian character are a description of humility in action” (p. xii). The general premise is that there are precepts (commands) to walk in humility and promises that are God’s grace towards those who do, indeed, walk in that humility. For each character trait (poverty of spirit, meekness, purity of heart, etc.) there is a chapter; in each chapter, Bridges uses stories from Scripture, personal anecdotes, occasional discussion of the original language, and even classic hymns of the church to paint a clear and vivid picture of the commands and promises in that beatitude. Each chapter is quite well-organized; not once did I feel disoriented. Bridges’ thought-flow is smooth and eloquent.
What I’ve always appreciated most about Bridges’ writing, is that he consistently points the reader to three things:
- the complete and perfect sovereignty of God;
- His abundant love for His children; and
- the gospel as the first and greatest hope in the life of a believer.
This happens again in The Blessing of Humility, in the chapters and in the discussion guide.
I think this volume will remain on our shelf as a classic, annual re-read for years to come. In my heart, I know that the bulk of wisdom I gleaned on this first pass is only the tip of the iceberg. Because of Jerry Bridges, I now have a clearer impression of what it looks like to walk in humility, through the power of the Spirit. I pray that this short exegetical work will soon land in your hands, so that you can have the blessing, not only of humility, but also of Jerry Bridges’ immense skillfulness with the written word.
Soli Deo Gloria,
*In exchange for my honest opinion, I received a complimentary advance review copy of this title from Tyndale House.
The dedication page in this book says it all: “This book is for everyone out there who needs to know that being a “good” homemaker has less to do with having a clean home and more to do with loving others well.”
I wrestled with this beast a few years ago and have arrived at a decent balance in my own homemaking. Could it be better? Of course. But life has seasons, and some seasons are less inclined to facilitate the kind of clean house I truly desire. (For me, that season is called “the school year”.) And at the end of the day, what really matters is how I use our home to love others through hospitality and fellowship.
Having a Martha Home the Mary Way by Sarah Mae is a 31-day devotional. I’m not sure I knew this when I opted to review it, but that’s okay. It was what I needed, and clearly the Lord knew that. The book opens with a forward, followed by an introduction that is completely worth reading. I admit to being an introduction-skipper most of the time; I just want to get to the meat! But the author gives her own story in it, and I think it’s helpful to have a grasp on her perspective before diving into the experience the book offers. (She seems to start from a point of chaos; the house is out of control, and the overwhelm has created a mode of analysis paralysis.)
Each day is structured as such:
- a short devotional (usually a page or so in length)
- a “Mary Challenge” (Scripture reading with reflection questions)
- a “Martha Challenge” (a cleaning/organizing goal for the day)
In my opinion, this book is like Whole30, but for your house. It’s devoting 31 days to examining your own heart—Why do I want a clean house? And how will I utilize it for the Lord once I’ve completed this journey?—and moving methodically through your home to purge and reorganize and deep clean. It sounds overwhelming, and if you work outside the home (like I do), it would likely be too much for one month, unless you clear a couple of your Saturdays and involve the whole family in the Martha Challenges (which she encourages). But I think the book could easily be adapted for each person’s lifestyle and still accomplish the main goal, which, as the subtitle states, is taking “31 days to a clean house and a satisfied soul.” I think the author does a good job of pointing the reader’s eyes to Jesus (thus the satisfied soul).
My main takeaway from Having a Martha Home the Mary Way is this: If you don’t have a theological basis and vision for your homemaking, this book will help you create one. Having worked through this in the past, I can say that having a vision for how the Lord would want me to use our home—instead of simply how I want to use it—helps me to stay motivated in homemaking. Sarah lists her homemaking vision in the book, but mine is really two-fold:
- Create a warm, comfortable, safe space to serve as a place of rest and rejuvenation for my family.
- Keep that space tidy and organized such that we can offer hospitality at a moment’s notice.
Everything stems from that. Notice I didn’t say perfect; no lived-in space will ever be perfect all the time because, well, you’re living in it! I appreciate that Sarah Mae differentiates between a comfortable, livable space, and the unattainable perfect one.
Even if you’re a naturally organized person who loves a good purge one a quarter—I’m raising my hand here!—Having a Martha Home the Mary Way still offers good reminders and ideas to reignite your passion for a good purge. Speaking of, I’ve got a capsule wardrobe to assemble. 🙂
Soli Deo gloria,
*In exchange for my honest opinion, I received a complimentary copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers.